My husband Dave and I moved into the Act Five home on Blake Street as Resident Leaders from just four streets over, but the transition was impossible to overestimate.
We were previously living and leading the residence at Micah House, a house that provides safe shelter for newly-arrived refugee claimants. Although only four streets over, moving for us meant transitioning from navigating cultural barriers, refugee legalities, and language differences to navigating curfews, discipleship programming and all the distinctives that come with a house full of young adults who have just left their parents’ home for the first time.
Last summer as we were approaching our move, the words of a mentor of mine kept coming to mind: transitions require space. Transitions are when all the normalities we’ve had to comfort us are suddenly gone; they’re when parts of ourselves we hadn’t yet come to know sometimes bubble up to the surface; they’re what some writers call liminal space, a word that comes from the latin word for ‘threshold.’ Transitions are gaps that create a threshold for the Holy Spirit to do unique work.
Knowing this, we didn’t rush our transition. Instead, we took some time to travel, be together, and meditate gratefully on all that has been and will be.
It was after moving in and welcoming our first cohort of students that I began to notice it: this whole program is an adventure in navigating the joys, challenges, and opportunities that come with one of the most significant transitions in the life of a young adult’s journey – graduating high school and leaving home.
This ‘gap’ in the lives of young people likewise cannot be overestimated. It’s the moment when questions surface about Scripture, God, and His Church; it’s when that age-old question “what are you going to do with your life?” starts to shout instead of whisper; it’s when the word “home” becomes complicated and multifaceted no matter your upbringing; it’s when “who am I?” is a seemingly unanswerable question at the front of mind; for many, it’s when the world becomes big and wide and more diverse and complicated than previously imagined.
And so it just makes sense to, like my mentor said, let transition have its required space; and that was what we did together these last 8 months. Through placements, conversation, and living in community, our students started to taste answers to the big “who am I?” question. In Zambia, at a cabin up North, and at our home in Hamilton, they learned how to slow down, rest, and trust the process. From start to finish, our students asked lots of questions, and sometimes we answered but usually we just listened, knowing we’re asking the same questions in our own lives and journeys. Through all the ebbs and flows, it was such a pure joy as a Resident Leader to get a front row seat in watching each of the students in their own ways change, grow and transform as God did His good work as He always so faithfully does.
It’s interesting to note that our students left Blake Street to enter into another massive, unprecedented, not-to-be-underestimated liminal space, this time one that they share with the whole globe. As the world holds its breath wondering what will come next in light of a virus that has changed everything, we sit in a common reality between what was and what will be. We need more than ever the lessons learned in this first year at Act Five: to go slow, trust the process and wonder at the big questions of identity and vocation and place.
Annie Dillard writes that “The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the Spirit’s one home… The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God.” As we all globally navigate this gap, we here at Act Five are preparing for next year’s students and the gap they will walk through, and we do it knowing we have arrived at the Spirit’s home. Because it’s here, in all the gaps of our lives, that we cower to see God, looking earnestly for opportunities to ask life’s big questions and to thank God for His faithful way of molding us and shaping us all – students, staff, supporters, and friends alike.