The Unraveling Sweater

I can’t recall the last time I’ve been this tired. There was that one time right after my first year of college… I took a redeye from LA to London, spent 8 hours running around the British Museum, then boarded a redeye for Tel Aviv only to report for an 8am class followed by a mandatory walking tour of Jerusalem. That afternoon my friend Sharon fell asleep standing up in a store and almost knocked me down with the display of postcards she took to the floor. As I have never been able to sleep in public, in a moving vehicle, or in any position other than a full recline, I was awake for nearly 48 hours, dragging my body like an ape drags its arms. I remember crawling into my bed that afternoon and being so crazy fatigued that I couldn’t fall asleep. Even after my travel marathon across 11 time zones when I looked and moaned like the undead, I didn’t feel as tired as I do now.

I’m so profoundly tired. I’m tired of trolling the internet for the newest job postings, constantly reworking my resume and writing cover letters everyone requires but, according to experts, nobody reads. I’m tired of job searching in a technology-worshiping society whose efforts in HR convenience have reduced the “right candidate” to pings on a keyword search logarithm. You may as well tattoo a QR code on my wrist and transfer me into a ghetto for all the personhood this honors in me. I’m tired of people basing hiring decisions on quantitative experience. I am a vital, creative, productive being and I am much more than the total of my experiences.

I’m tired of faith-based organizations and churches telling me that while I am very gifted and clearly called to ministry I’m “just not the right fit.” While this may be true in some cases, it certainly cannot be true in every case, so please stop using the Holy Spirit as your scapegoat and have the courage and compassion to give real feedback.

I’m tired of otherwise lovely, well-meaning friends quoting scripture at me or offering simple platitudes about seasons and trials for what is a very complex and taxing situation. I truly thank you for caring enough to ask how I am, but please be prepared for me to be honest. On days when I tear up or say okay (which for me is pretty low), you are not responsible for making me feel better. I don’t need you to try to make sense of what does not make sense. I need your constancy. Show me that you see me. Make me laugh.  Make me a mix CD full of cheesy motivators like Don’t Stop Believing and The Eye of the Tiger so there will be some levity in all this waiting. Give me room to speak my truth and if you don’t know what to say, love me with your silence.

I’m tired of TV shows, comedians, preachers and baby boomers picking on people who live with their parents. Most of us are not lazy, ambitionless moochers who float through the days with their brains in the hemp-hazed clouds of Neverland. I’m tired of news commentators making seven figures who propagate generalizations about “the poor” that may have been true ten years ago. I graduated magna cum laude from a competitive school and flourished in a four-year Masters program. I’m smart, hard-working, ambitious, collaborate well with others. Due to circumstances beyond my control I have spent two of the last four years unemployed or underemployed. I’ve lived on very little income but I pay rent, am debt-free and I tithe. According to the government, I am poor. I may not have a lot of money and most of my socks have holes in them but none of these things define me unless you let them. Poor people are still people full of worth and good ideas. We are visionaries and inventors, industrious people with callings who are juggling multiple jobs and contributing to our communities even as we dream about something better than the hollow American dream. We know what the Bill O’Reillys of the world do not – that if you actually listen to people, if you sit with someone who is not like you and hear their story, you’ll realize that the issues you like to rant about are multi-faceted, incredibly complex and they always impact the human soul. We know that compassion and unhurried face-to-face conversation can motivate greater change than media-hype, elections, taxes and budget cuts.

I’m so tired of all of this. I’m tired of this world and what it values. Of systems and circumstances making me feel less than the vibrant human being that I am. Of being stereotyped and misunderstood and overlooked. Of wearing this droopy, unraveling sweater of perseverance. Of prayers like broken records. Of being my own day-camp director, always trying to fill hours of idleness with something positive and productive.

Yesterday morning as I waited in our church lobby for the first service to end, 16-month-old Sabina came to the nursery gate and lifted her arms to me. (Sabina is a special buddy of mine. I was the first person after her parents to ever hold her. She has a mischievous smile and soft blond hair that flies in a natural mohawk. I love her like she is one of my own.) Unable to resist, I lifted Bina into my arms and kissed her cheek. She immediately burrowed her head into my neck and rested there, totally relaxed. I swayed back and forth to the music coming from the sanctuary. As I sang softly, she hummed along. When she got too heavy, I moved to a nearby rocking chair and continued our gentle motion. She never fell asleep; she simply relaxed in the arms of someone who loves her.

That is what I wish the world was like, but know it will never be. But is it too much to ask for more humanness and compassion?

What Sabina found in my arms is exactly what I need from God. Every night I reflect on my day and pray. In those moments, and in a thousand desperate seconds every week, I am throwing my arms up to God. I need Love to hold me. To let me rest, be still and be quiet. I need God to rock me gently, securing me to him with a full embrace. I need to feel the whisper of I love you on my cheek. I need his song in my ear.

Some days I feel optimistic, like something new is waiting just around the corner. Other days I’m numb, going through the motions with no energy to think beyond the next hour. I wonder if this is what soldiers feel like fighting a long war. Never knowing how and when the war will end. Longing for home but knowing that they might not get there for a long time. Losing sight of what they are fighting for. Their identity preserved by names embroidered on their camouflage and stamped into metal tags hanging from their necks. Their souls weary from what their eyes have seen. Needing vigilance to survive.

My name is Corrie Megan Gustafson. I am a person created, known and deeply loved by God. I don’t have much of what the world values but I have infinite value. I have inner resources that can brighten this dark, calloused world. My story matters and I will do everything I can to keep telling it.

4 thoughts on “The Unraveling Sweater

  1. Pingback: A Holy Week | Pastor with a Purse

  2. Thank you Corrie. It has been a while since I have read your blog, and I am so glad that I did tonight. I’m praying for you and I can truly understand some of your frustrations with this life. All this unknown and waiting is so very tiring sometimes. Thank you again for your honesty. Miss you friend.

  3. Corrie,
    Thanks for continuing to articulate your journey and be transparent about your struggles. I have more than one person that I have shared your blog with who have found comfort in both knowing they are not along and the faith you articulate.
    Prayers and blessings my friend.

  4. Hi Corrie. I have not been in your situation in so far as it relates to work. I cannot imagine how difficult and discouraging this is for you, and I appreciate your ability to put it into words so I can get a glimpse. However, your post resonates with me on a whole other level. The last three paragraphs are exactly what I am feeling but can’t express… what I need and have become so weary waiting for. You are not alone in this, at least. Your writing is a gift – thank you for sharing it with us.

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