Living in the Both / And

Depending on where you live in the country, you may be about to turn the calendar on a full year of balancing working from home along with adjusting to homeschooling. Whether you’re figuring out a weekly new normal or facing weeks of the same monotonous routine, one thing we are all dealing with these days is the need for perserverance in the unknown.

With close to 10 million people filing for unemployment, concerns about when life will return to normal and what our new normal will look like consume news cycles, social media posts, and daily conversation. Some days it seems the constant chaos is only topped by “experts” attempting to increase the fear of daily life with each flip of the channel. It’s hard to live in the unknown. Even the most spontaneous adventurers eventually discover we’re also natural planners.

living in both / and

This time is challenging, but there is a trick to getting through that may help. It’s one I’ve used each year as the football season starts to wrap up and the questions about “next year” begin. Will we stay? Will we go?

When you face the unknown and two equal options sit before you you’re living in the Both / And. This can be an uncomfortable space because it often requires two independent lines of thinking. The Both /And has space for two truths and for complex ideas to exist. For example, we can BOTH dislike that we are asked to social distance AND choose to do so because it’s the best way to protect and love our neighbors.

The Stress of the Both / And

One year ago we watched the news as those who lead our country claimed we were safe while also knowing full well our country was facing a deadly virus. Within weeks the propaganda could no longer hide the truth. People were dying quickly.

Schools started to extend spring break for additional weeks and sports events were impacted. Coaches began to mourn the loss of games and then full seasons. Coaches’ wives around the country reported their husbands were feeling the shock deeply. They seemed lost without a team to coach. It didn’t take me long to realize that for coaches who had previously experienced firings, they were likely having some of the same memories from past uncertainties.

With little warning, coaches were sent home. No practice, no games, no idea when things will start again. Finances were in limbo and to top it off there wasn’t any way to get out of the house and just feel “normal”. In many cases, being fired wounds coaching families deeply, even when we know it’s part of the “deal” signing up for this crazy life. Coaches spend so many hours on with their teams and preparing for practices and games that they often don’t have many other hobbies.

Living in the Both / And is something I’ve learned to do for several months out of the year. Now that sports programs dissolve coach’s contracts at any time of the year, even during the middle of the football season, it’s become a requirement to live in a limbo of sorts.

We live with the knowledge that there could be a “next season” and there very well may not be a next season. We talk about next year as if we’ll live in the same community and also understand that it’s possible we may live somewhere else. This balancing act is easier for some than others. For me, the key is accepting that whatever plans I make, I may need to release them if they aren’t possible for the future that does happen.

Living in the Both / And could mean:

  • We are BOTH okay with staying with our current team AND moving on as God calls us
  • We are BOTH okay with living within a certain budget AND willing to adjust our budget if a job loss occurs
  • We are BOTH okay with our current budget AND hopeful God will open a door for a new job for 2 incomes
  • We are BOTH okay with our current stage of life (no kids, 1 kid, etc) AND hopeful to shift to a new stage in the near future

Sometimes we experience temporary Both / AND situations:

Elijah age 1 week- living in the Both/ And

This is our son Elijah when he is about 1 week old. Elijah contracted MERSA when he was born due to delivery complications. He was severly jaundiced and we ended up at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, MO while they tried to figure out how to battle his infection.

During this time we were required to live in the Both / And without knowing when things would end.

Nothing about this time was normal. Most questions people asked me were met with the same answer which was simple, I don’t know. And above all, we had zero control. We didn’t have the typical story in that after delivering the baby we discharged from the hospital and moved forward with life. However, after a month we were dressing him in real clothes without juggling a PICC line, going for walks in the stroller, and enjoying the midnight feedings followed by challenges of getting this new person who consumed our schedule back to sleep.

Both / And Means Surrendering Control

The hardest part about living in Both / And seasons is that you realize you don’t have control over anything. Even the parts of your life with the illusion of control are lost. This could cause despair, but it can also be a space of peace and joy. When you replace the need to control things with surrender, you can release your imperfect plans which are limited by humanity’s minimal view of life and replace them with God’s guidance.

We all struggle with blindly following God. We want to know the end of the story. Surrendering our plan for God’s is hard. We have our idea of what’s best for us. But God knows so much more about what’s best for His children. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

We focus on what God doesn’t give us or what we think he’s taking away. Psalm 84:11 says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Sometimes the best gift is the gift of protection. What we see as God withholding could actually be his gift. Living in the BOTH / AND asks us to trust that when we surrender to “Plan B,” we’re actually replacing our plan with God’s “Plan A,” and when we do so we set ourself up for heavenly success.

Successfully Both / And Living Includes Growth:

  • Don’t be afraid to cry – you are mourning
  • Understand you’ll have good days and bad days – give yourself grace to go slow on the bad days
  • Read the Bible
  • Ask God to reveal himself when he is present as your comforter
  • As you read Bible stories that you connect with ask God to reveal his character to you in your present circumstances
  • Reach out to trusted friends who will point you to God even on your hardest days
  • Understand your personality and identify when you are leaning on unhealthy coping mechanisms. Choose to corrections as you can.
  • Hold plans loosely, but look to the future. Hope is a good thing.
  • Figure out what you can do today to grow whether that’s personally, with work, or in relationships
  • Practice great self-care: exercise, eat well, keep a good routine so you can sleep enough
  • Listen to worship music
  • Focus on holding onto positive thoughts and releasing negative thoughts

We aren’t meant to live in the Both / And spaces of life long term. This situation we’re in right now isn’t supposed to be our normal life. We live in a broken world. It’s why we long to rebel against the restrictiveness of the additional boundaries. It’s also why we rebel against change when we’re asked to step out of our comfort zone. When all else fails, we can look far down the road and know that when we’re in heaven none of these things will matter. For now, let’s do our part to love our neighbors take care of the earth so that everyone has the same opportunity to join us in heaven too.

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As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 7, 2020, and has been updated in February 2021 for freshness, accuracy, and completeness.

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