THE INBETWEEN vol. 1
Dear reader, There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Beauty and suffering coexist, and neither are to be neglected for the sake of the other. There is a time for each. When we make time to weave these experiences into prose, poetry, and art, humans are quick to connect and empathize with each other’s hardships; it is for this reason that the Penn Epistle chose these mediums to communicate our message in a new way. In conceptualizing this zine—the miniature magazine in your hands— our team talked about the failures and holes in art that attempt to portray religion and spirituality. Frankly, we’ve seen too many movies end in the salvation of a character, a miracle, or a sudden insight from God that ties the story in a neat bow. We believe in these stories, we agreed, but we couldn’t help but laugh at the clichés. We asked the question: were they representative of our own experiences as Christians, which are not always so pretty and neat? Though our future in heaven is secured, we are not promised a life without suffering; in fact, we will almost certainly continue to live with doubts, anxiety, and depression, at times feeling unloved and unworthy. That’s something to which all of us can relate. We are all searching for where and with whom we belong—for what will give us life, purpose, and joy. For us as Christians, no longer belonging to earth and not yet a resident in heaven, we have no choice but to lament and find beauty in this space between. And that’s the story we are trying to depict for you here. Our intention in creating this zine is to let Jesus shine in every high and low of this in-between. We invite you to read with intention, in and out of order, backwards and forwards. We sought to represent symbolically and linguistically our pain and hope in relation to the sovereignty and constancy of the God we trust. Listen to our stories with an open heart— allow yourself to put to death the notion that suffering means God is not caring for us, for He is a God of love. Let us tell you through our stories who God is, and let us share our convictions in who He has made us to be. With love,
Ellie Shuert Zine Editor
I found rest. I found rest for my soul after a lifetime of searching in agonizing failure for a fraction of love that wasn't fleeting of grace that wasn't conditional of peace that didn't wane I once lived in a world of temporaries a few moments of hope, days of success, occasional highs to dull the lows of a broken world dead set on destroying itself Then I met my Beloved, who has gone up to heaven and come down whose hands have gathered up the wind who has wrapped up waters in a cloak Love is Him, and all He does and says Love adopted my orphaned heart Love holds my soul in tender cords so my weakness can never again separate us Love bled in my place. Love bled in yours. to the parched: He is our fountain to the oppressed: He is our freedom to the burdened: He is our rest If you have ears to hear, I implore you, ask. knock. seek. how He desires to be yours.
I stand beneath a sky devoid of stars. I try to beg for the stars, but I cannot speak. When I reach into the dark, my hands come back empty. The darkness chokes me; I cannot breathe. I am running deeper into the darkness beyond. If I am honest, I am afraid of the light. But I stumble among the fallen trees, tripping on rocks and roots. I cry out in pain, my voice tainted with panic. I do not know where I am or where I am going. Why is it so hard to admit that I am lost? I hear steps pursuing me in the forest. Afraid, I run faster. I fall again, but I cannot get up in time. Helplessly, I give up. I resolve to be killed by whatever lurks in the darkness. But you reach out and pick me up. Your touch is gentle, and your voice is soft. When you turn and look upon me, I see your eyes—they are light. Everything in me yearns to run, but you do not let me go. I settle into your embrace; I am done fighting. As you carry me, I notice light breaking ahead. We reach a clearing, and you turn my gaze to look upon the sunrise. With tears in my eyes, I turn to you, undone. You gaze upon me with love, and I am filled with joy. I rest in the arms of the I AM, forevermore.
Nine hours in the waiting room The joy of what is here and the anxiety of what is to come The reality is lighthearted but the responsibility weighty Going to bed a son and waking up a brother. Ten years in the making Two miscarriages in the breaking Living waters start where dried tears end Going to bed a wife and waking up a mother. A model family to the rest of the church Pastorship weighing heavy on the shoulders Prayers answered in the right time Going to bed a husband and waking up a father. Knitted in the womb by the Lover of her soul All her imperfections fearfully and wonderfully made The unformed and unseen parts predestined for His glory Going from the arms of one Father and into the arms of another.
After all I am not perfect. I am not perfect. I am not perfect…
But what can I do? What is there to be done? Why am I here?
I hate this life I hate these people I hate myself
God. I feel filthy I feel pathetic I feel unworthy When I cry out to you When I call out your name I can see myself all too well. My thoughts battle against each other Raging red, festering inside I shouldn’t have gotten angry I should’ve been more patient It wasn’t that big of a deal
No, they don’t
These thoughts make me the bigger person
God, I can’t SPEAK to you LOOK at you THINK of how you think of me right now I know you hate anger and jealousy I know you must hate me. Where can I hide Where do I go I sink into the pit of self-hate and self-pity Failing to numb myself to it all Is there an end? Can I ever be genuine when I come to you? Can I ever go back to you with an honest, pleading heart? It would be much easier to get lost in the fog To stay mindless It doesn’t sound like such a bad idea…
GOD, SAVE ME.
Burn away my dross, O Lord, For Your eternal praise; Kill sin and sickness in my heart Through purifying flame. May Your grace and mercy, Lord, So move me to obey; Your wond’rous might and power and love Push wretched thoughts away. Transgression is insanity, Iniquity a chain; Through the work of God the Son No more to sin a slave. Dead to death, alive to You, A son forevermore; I shall for all eternity The Lord of hosts adore! Refine my soul as silver, Lord, End this sin of mine; Discipline, reprove me, Lord ‘Til from me Your face shine.
This side of heaven, Voices cry out to their Maker, Shouting praises of joy, radiant exultation, Prostrating and kneeling in supplication. Behold the souls of the redeemed, Inwardly groaning, yet patiently waiting, For the One who is coming will not delay. The Lord is not slow in keeping a promise, but steadfast. Put your trust in Him, all you peoples; for His kingdom is an everlasting dominion.
It’s been a long day. I trudge back to my building. I swipe my Penn card. I squeeze between the couple in the elevator. I walk down the hall. I open the door. I greet the mouse in the living room. I wash my hands. I take off my coat. I enter my room. There it is. I see a gleam across my austere beige wall. I see a breathtaking beam of blood orange. I see the Sun has made his way into my room with all his majesty. I cannot comprehend it. I cannot begin to explain it. I feel all of the troubles of the day leave my mind. I let the Sun glide across my face. I bask in the warmth of its rays. I entertain the feeling of inner peace. This must be what Heaven is like. I close my eyes for a moment. I imagine the scene. I let my mind drift to a realm that will one day be my reality.
There is an absence of worry. There is the warmth of my Creator. There is a glorious light that emits from His presence. There are hosts of angels singing. There are masses of elders celebrating. There is every living thing jubilating. I feel the light begin to retire. I am almost brought to tears. I don’t want this moment to end.
I open my eyes. I see the cold dark night. I am brought back to the present. It’s gone. The dreary night stares at me. I stare back at it. I feel better. Heaven on Earth is temporary, But one day that paradise will become my reality.
A walk on Locust A breeze in the autumn leaves He's whispering hello. The sun shines brightly on snaking gray and red stone Common beauty shown. His peace fills my lungs Leaves blanket the frat houses as if to warm them. Reds, browns, greens, yellows compose the vibrant quilting felted by worn shoes. Smiling at the sky My cheeks a cold, rosy pink Joy seen by white teeth. His joy I’ve prayed for— In His peace, I find my rest.
who am i when this is over?
I smell the sharp cologne he not-so-secretly sprayed in the airport bathroom earlier as I bury my face in his chest, which I had been dreaming about since I fell in love. I feel his one hand run through my hair and the other cradle my head as my lips curl into a smile, and I’m thinking there’s nothing I could love more. Overwhelmingly blissful in the physical arms of romance and wishing it would never end, I thought I knew what love was. But the hazy screen that once let me gaze at him for hours before I fell asleep every night now blurs his face, and I can’t tell where he is stoically staring. Is he noticing the water pooling in my eyes, the same eyes he ignited with his gaze, or the tears dripping off my chin, the chin his lips used to kiss? The silence feels like forever as I plead for an answer, “do you still love me?” Before he could twist the knife in my heart, before I could run out of breath in the water he shoved my head under, before he could make me question what love was once more, I hear, “yes, always,” coming from a familiar voice, not his but Yours. Your voice from the distant past that I almost couldn’t recognize. Then I look down at Your hand covering the healed wound in my chest. My lungs fill with invigorated air provided by Your breath. You shine through a pinhole then break through the walls of pain and You pull me into your arms.
BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH I DON'T DESERVE IT, JESUS, YOU STILL LOVE ME ANYWAY.
Suddenly, I am now embraced by your warmth of eternity, and even when I push You away You pull me back, wiping the tears from my cheek and piecing together my broken soul no one else could remedy. You smell like fresh, clean cotton—a scent I want on me every single day. Any dirt, any doubt, any regret—all washed away, and I am clothed in white. Because even though I don't deserve it, Jesus, You still love me anyway.
As the deer pants for water, so too am I thirsty I hear Your love is like the ocean but I have no cup and my hands cannot grasp it while they are holding tightly to the flesh Lord, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death and I, am afraid Your rod and your staff, they cannot comfort me because they are uncomfortable in my hands The serpent told me I could be like God, and I heard that Your burden is light so I took your burden upon myself but it is heavy without You to carry it, But I carry on Onward because there is no other way to go and I pray that You did not leave me when I left You behind How long has it been now? A week or a month or three months or a year? How did it start? When did my fire for you turn to burning for sin, and I yearned once for You Lord will I yearn for you again? Your mercies are new every morning and good thing because every morning I sin Great is Your faithfulness and good thing because weak is my faith and I have forgotten what hope is but I sure hope You haven’t forgotten me I lament my sin; I lament my sin;
I lament my sin;
I lament my sin;
On Saturdays, I used to drive aimlessly at night on the back roads of the city, where the lights are dim, where the thick fog fills your eyes, where the smell of eucalyptus and smoke fills every sense, where the sky is the same dark as the wooded, winding road; and wondered, looking up at the star on the left, above the black horizon, if my voice could be heard past the tired sputter of my heart, past the crumpled stain on my soul, the same dark as the wooded, winding road.
"And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever." —Revelation 22:5
I know that you no longer believe that you were made to be mine. That in fact, you do not believe you were really made for anything. I know that this world has chipped away at you, little by little— that your friends have hurt you and you have hurt them, that you give people and things your heart, and let those same things tear you apart. I know that you have lost hope and faith dozens of times, that you used to have this childlike wonder, but your soul hasn’t felt innocent or pure in a long time. Now, it just feels injured and small, jaded and sad. I know that you no longer believe that you are beloved, that you are mad and angry, because you are sad and broken. I know that you still want to try, but you don’t know how to anymore. Yet this is what I know: I made you out of dirt and stardust, but I did not make you for this world. I did not make you for mere pleasures or pride, I made you in My image, to set sights on the things above. I know that you believe you have changed, but I never will, and I have made you for eternity.
Contributors Luke Baber Jeremiah Beeler Matt Burst Julia Deng Destiny Dennis Jade Hermosillo Avery Johnston Sid Kanderi
Rebecca Kim Jehuda Kusuma Madeeha Mirza Sarah Shin Ellie Shuert Sydney Sun Kaylyn Wang Ben Zeisloft
Made possible by the donations of Kelly Writers House and the Faith Fund