Fathom Mag
Article

Extract

Published on:
February 26, 2018
Read time:
3 min.
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When 2018 began, a group of my friends and I decided to share our personal visions for the year with each other. A gal far more linear and organized than me created a spreadsheet with each person’s name as well as space for us to include scripture for meditating on, creative and personal goals, and a line of poetry to govern the year. She also included a column for each of us to share a word—just one word—to serve as a mantra for 2018. 

My soul presses at the edges of life—or are the edges of life pressing at my soul?

I’ve practiced this word-picking ritual in years past, soon abandoning the liturgy in a wave of pseudo-rebellious arrogance: “Ugh, all the mommy bloggers are choosing words for the year, so count me out.” But this year, with this group of friends, I decided to eschew my iconoclasm for a brief moment and choose a word. You’ll have to forgive me the correction and the cliche—I didn’t choose the word; the word chose me.

Extract.

It seemed to appear before my eyes in that little cell, that box drawing boundaries around the year. The year 2018 is already shoving me up against those boundaries. My soul presses at the edges of life—or are the edges of life pressing at my soul?—in such a way that I’m at times left gasping for breath.

My children are small. My husband is a pastor who holds the stories of so many others that I wonder sometimes if our story will be buried beneath them. My job is in service of a pediatric hospital unit from which far too many little ones never return home. My youngest son’s legs and feet don’t work like mine, and I don’t know why. My fingers itch to write but my heart panics when I’m published. My body longs for rest and stability that, in this season at least, only an SSRI seems capable of offering, even as scripture and prayer and friendship surround me.

Life’s grip on me feels more like a chokehold than an embrace today—wringing me out, tempting me to believe nothing will be left. Extracting.

Earlier this week, I thought about brewing this third cup of The Steep for you. I thought I would pour out a blend with undertones of last week’s flavor—perhaps a few new spices. Instead, I am leaving the tea bag in the pot a bit longer, watching the liquid grow darker, almost murky. 

Some of you wrote to me. You shared with me your thoughts on isolation, on moments so piercing and painful you thought your heart may split in two. You spoke of loneliness inside marriages, inside churches, inside families and friend groups and offices. You recalled your own moments of extraction—relationships or ministry or family or career wringing you out, draining you from the inside. 

Life’s grip on me feels more like a chokehold than an embrace today.

I wanted to come to this space and offer you a solution, but friends gentle, strong, and wise keep reminding me that this column is not an answer factory. So, I thought I’d compromise—with them, with my own idiosyncrasies—and offer you serene conversation. I thought I’d be the one to acknowledge our collective sense of loneliness and isolation, then move us right along into hopeful discussion. But this week, that’s not what I have to give you. 

What I have to give you is a truth that may taste a bit like the tea leaf was left in the cup for too long, a strange bitterness that’s aged past desirability. The truth is that my life is full of love—a husband who dotes on me, children who adore me, friends who comfort me. And simultaneously, the truth is that life presses me thin, that there are weeks when my heart’s desire for belonging is only tempered by the hope that someday all things will be made right and we will never feel the ache of humanity again. Even as friends care for my children so my husband and I can care for each other, even as my phone lights up with text messages of encouragement—even then, there is an ache.

We’re going to be in this together, friends, and at the end of all of it—even if we end up with principles and ideas and hopes and dreams for what our communal lives can look like, there will be ache. There will be longing. This vapor of a life promises us no differently, and so I cannot either. But I can promise you that here, in this space, there will be tea that is sometimes a bit strong, and sometimes a bit weak, and sometimes just right. I can promise you a pour, and maybe, sometimes that will be just enough to take the edge off of our collective yearning to belong. I’ll have a cup for you.

Abby Perry
Abby Perry is a weekly columnist for Fathom Mag and has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, and Coffee + Crumbs. She currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary and coordinates communications for His Grace Foundation, a nonprofit organization. Abby lives with her husband and their two sons in Texas. You can find Abby at her website and on Twitter @abbyjperry.

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