Postmarked: Dear Jen (36)

Dear Jen

I am currently over at my parents’ empty house doing laundry—our washer’s spin cycle sounds like a helicopter taking off, so until the repair person comes or we buy another one, we’re relying on my mom and dad’s machine. We have not spent time with my parents for over six weeks now, and it’s strange to be in their house when they’re not here. Spending our Sunday afternoons here seems like something we did in another life, or perhaps dreamed about.

You are so right about the monotony of days, the repetitions we find ourselves in, the new ways we mark the passing of time. Our days are relatively peaceful: mornings together over breakfast and The Purpose Driven Life; days spent working and writing; early afternoons involve something outside; dinner together; put the “littles’ to bed and watch Downton Abbey with our middles and our bigs.

Our kids have been finding some small measure of freedom by exploring the city, with its empty sidewalks and less busy streets. Our 10- and 12-year old went for a bike ride yesterday, winding their way a few miles to check out the middle school. Our son goes for long walks. Now that the sun has arrived, we spend more time on the front porch or racing around the back alley.

The topic of trust continues to settle in my mind–I think if I were to write a nonfiction book anytime soon, it would have to be on the topic of trust. If you don’t mind, I’ll put this Brennan Manning quote here again, for anyone who missed it when I included it two letters ago:

“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of the pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.”

And now as I write, I remember a story that Henri Nouwen once told, of his obsession with the work of trapeze artists. In a talk he gave (around the 24:30 mark), he reminisced about meeting the leader of a group of trapeze artists, and he was star struck. There were two catchers who never left the swings, simply hung upside-down and caught the other three, the flyers as they made their way through the air. Nouwen had such admiration for their courage and creativity. He asked the leader, one of the flyers, how he did it.

The man paused and then told him that what was most important, as you were coming out of a triple and preparing to connect with the catcher, was making sure you didn’t try to reach for the catcher. If you did, you would almost certainly miss them, or even break your wrists. No, he said the most important part of making that connection was simply putting your arms straight out and trusting the catcher would be there to grab onto you.

Trust the catcher.

That is a phrase Maile and I often say to each other when we find ourselves moving into obscurity, into ambiguity, into a place where there is no “clearly delineated plan for the future.”

Wondering where the next project will come from? Wondering how we’ll pay the bills? Wondering what to do with the decisions our children are making? Wondering what our future will look like?

Trust the catcher.

While I am so ready for these restrictions to be lifted, I do have to say that when I think of the future and going back to our old life, I feel a small twinge of anxiety. I have found gifts in this strange time that I am afraid we will lose when normal returns, whenever that is. This, I think, might be the great challenge of our time–to emerge from this unprecedented uncertainty able to resist the current that would pull us back into any of the destructive practices we used to engage in during “normal” times.

Well, I suppose I’ll have to simply put out my arms, when the time comes, and trust the catcher.

Kind Regards


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What began as a Twitter conversation between two writers on creative work and family life has become an exchange of letters. Here is where Postmarked began:

Postmarked: Dear Shawn (1)

One Reply to “Postmarked: Dear Jen (36)”

  1. Shawn, Trust the catcher. This was a very insightful article you wrote. Trust in others is earned, right. But we cannot make others trustworthy, can we? The work of building trust is ours alone. Hopefully, I’m a trustworthy person. I enjoy your writings. Richard

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