When Closure Isn’t Possible: Making Sense of the ‘In-Between’

Closure

A mother sits by the windowsill of her home, hoping that today’s the day her son will finally walk up the driveway. He went missing nearly ten years earlier without a trace or an explanation. In another town, a young woman struggles with the aftermath of abuse as a child by her uncle. She’s suffered in secret silence for a long time now. Not far from there, a man weeps over the loss of his best friend to senseless gun violence. It’s an unsolved crime that is now a cold case. The surviving friend has been grieving for nearly five years and can’t seem to move on. While down the road, a brother waits for any news on the whereabouts and safety of his sibling: a younger brother who’s now held in a far-distant country for a ‘crime’ that no one can explain to him in any understandable way. In each of these instances, someone’s seeking closure. Searching for a sense of peace. Grounded in concrete resolution. A chance to move on, even if not a full restoration.

Sometimes closure is possible. But, at other times, it’s not. The protagonists in life’s dramas wait and sit and live within the ‘In-Between’. Between the unsettling event and the potential, but yet unrealized, closure surrounding it someday. Human ‘beings’ seek closure to trauma, loss, illness, and injustice. It’s part of our DNA. Articles in medical, psychological, and pastoral literature are replete with posited ‘journeys’ of recovery. Stages of healing and reconciliation to loss. Such step-wise processes purportedly bring logic and linearity around a way out of the In-Between. And they play to our felt-need for resolution. For we, as a people, like permanence. Things and places that last. That stand the test of time. That we can hold tightly to. That offer stability. And that invite an ongoing homeostasis around us. When things are going well, there’s nothing like the status quo. When things aren’t, though, we yearn to return to those better times. The times before the downturn. Before the loss. Before the inexplicable. Before the unsettled In-Between. We gravitate to what makes sense for us. What makes us feel safe and secure. We take action to restore things as quickly as possible. And we ask God to make it so.

Yes, we turn to God to make it right. Within the Christian faith, the Bible tells us that all things are possible in God. Ask and you’ll receive. You can move mountains if only you’ll ask in faith. Nothing is too great for God when we earnestly ask in faith. Christ’s resurrection reminds us that the overarching human story has a happy, glorious ending, as well. Where Christ’s death isn’t really death in the end. That we, too, will be restored in our own heavenly individual resurrection bodies one day. If only we believe. All this is well and good and comforting, I suppose. It’s a hopeful message. When you play the ‘long-game’ of eternity. But it’s wrought with problems in the short-term… especially when our need for closure runs up against the absence of any tangible outcomes and resolutions in our own waiting situations. When the In-Between is one’s only daily reality. When God doesn’t appear to dispense the requested relief or clarity. When God appears silent and aloof, as if we’re not getting through to God. Or that God’s not sufficiently ‘moved’ by our pleas. Or we’re not convincing enough. Or, worse yet, we feel like we’re simply not worthy of a break from the Universe this time.

This unrealized need for closure can feel quite unsettling. Paralyzing, in fact. A sense of disconnection. Of being lost. Unhinged from the certainty of resolution that we crave. And changing this mindset is hard. Because closure is hardwired into our psyches. We’ve been taught that it’s not only possible—but that it’s admirable. That it’s spiritually right and proper. That it’s our religious birthright. If we keep the faith. So, when presented with the unresolved In-Between, we feel betrayed. Cheated somehow. Empty. And awash in extended, complicated, and directionless grief over our predicament. So what do we do when closure isn’t really possible? When answers aren’t forthcoming. And may never be. When we’re left with never knowing why or how something happened in the way that it did. When logic and linearity might never come forth. What if there is a way? Another way. A way forward that sits squarely within the In-Between, not one that moves us out of it.

Remaining in the In-Between calls for a radical faith. A faith that dares to ask for God, not something from God. Faith that finds comfort in God’s presence, love, and light far more than in God’s specific actions. A felt-surety that God accompanies us in all things. Provides us what we need to deal with whatever might come, no matter the outcome or resolution. Even if there isn’t one in the end. But God’s presence isn’t the whole story here. Radical faith also calls us to see our very life’s purpose differently. A purpose that transcends ourselves, individually, and thinks far more collectively. To be sure, it’s important to stay grounded in one’s self (as inherently loved and worthy). But our ‘being’ doesn’t stop there. For our purpose is tied to far bigger things. Like loving God. Loving others. And serving the world. In this sense, the Universe doesn’t pivot on us as individuals. The sun doesn’t rise and fall in our own backyard. No. We are here to have and to share God’s light and love. That’s a purpose much bigger than us. Bigger than our individual circumstances. And bigger than our felt need for security, safety, bodily immortality, and closure. Instead, it’s about partnering with God to build something far more amazing than we can ever imagine.

About doing one’s small part each day in creating a grand Story. Think about it. Much of the Bible is a narrative story. A compilation of varied stories. Stories that we share, interpret, and bring our diverse contexts to. Each of us has our own story, as well. Our stories give meaning to our lives. They ground us and give us a ‘place’ we can stake out as human ‘beings’. In the end, stories underpin all human existence. As such, our problem isn’t our stories. It’s when these stories become moribund. Stuck in cement. Fixed in the status quo. And individualized to an unhealthy degree. When we’ve bolted down our overly self-focused stories, and are then jolted by loss, sickness, trauma, uncertainty, and a lack of closure, it’s like someone has ripped the book from our hands. Someone or some thing has ruined the ‘finished’ story that we’ve been telling about ourselves. They’ve upset the happy, conclusive ending that we’ve already written in the book. And we feel that we can’t find meaning anymore.

But, while seemingly counter-intuitive on the surface, here’s a thought to ponder: there can be ‘closure’ in situations of no closure. It’s not in specific outcomes or resolutions, though. It’s in the very act of continuing to seek meaning. Simply put, seeking meaning actually provides meaning. And meaning provides a measure of closure within the In-Between. This kind of meaning making never stops. The ‘book’, our compilation of stories about ourselves and about others, is never truly finished. And this demands that we keep writing with God’s loving accompaniment. Continue to refine and edit. Offer and insert new ideas that transcend ourselves and our limited definitions of ‘life’. Infuse our intrinsic, but often underutilized and stifled, creativity. Think in new, curious, and innovative ways. Using pictures and symbols, not just ordinary words. Tapping all facets of our spiritual beings—thinking, acting, believing, feeling, and being. Perhaps most importantly, invoking multiple possible endings to the story, not only one. Or simply leaving the ending to our story open-ended. Going with an unfinished story for a change. Then sitting and resting within that reality, at least for the moment. While staying open to the future. To possibilities that we can’t readily grasp at this time.

In the end, we gravitate towards closure and resolution. But what we really need is meaning. To somehow make sense of a God and a Universe that are inherently mysterious. With questions that simply won’t be answered in our lifetimes. In such a world, and as spiritual human ‘beings’, we can best find meaning by continuously seeking it. Seek and ye shall find. Perhaps not the answers or closure as we routinely define these things. But we can find greater peace, grace, healing, and love in the many In-Between spaces of our respective lives. In the very stories that we create and continuously transform along the way. So write on. Meaningfully…

 

One comment

  1. So…asking “for” God to be present with me in my In-Between …seeking meaning where there are no answers, where there is no closure, Being open to God’s peace, grace, healing and love – in that space. I’m ready.

    Like

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