:How do you know God is real? In the emotionally-charged, fire-filled faith in which Addie Zierman grew up, the answer to this question was simple: Because you've FELT him. Now, at age 30, she feels nothing. Just...
Out of StockAvailable to Order
You May Also Like
:How do you know God is real?
In the emotionally-charged, fire-filled faith in which Addie Zierman grew up, the answer to this question was simple: Because you've FELT him.
Now, at age 30, she feels nothing. Just the darkness pressing in. Just the winter cold. Just a buzzing silence where God's voice used to be.
So she loads her two small children into the minivan one February afternoon and heads south in one last-ditch effort to find the Light.
In her second memoir, Night Driving, Addie Zierman powerfully explores the gap between our sunny, faith fictions and a God who often seems hidden and silent.
Against the backdrop of rushing Interstates, strangers' hospitality, gas station coffee, and screaming children, Addie stumbles toward a faith that makes room for doubt, disappointment, and darkness…and learns that sometimes you have to run away to find your way home.
Addie Zierman is a writer, blogger and recovering Jesus freak. She studied creative nonfiction at Hamline University and received her MFA there in 2010. Addie blogs regularly at www.AddieZierman.com where she's working to redefine her faith one cliche at a time. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Andrew, and their two young sons.
Andover, Minnesota, to Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Wednesday, February 12, and Thursday, February 13, 2014
“ROAD-TRIP SCENARIO,” Andrew says. He’s leaning against the kitchen counter on the night before the kids and I leave on our Epic Winter Road Trip. The table is piled with half-packed bags and stacks of books and assorted items that I want to be sure not to forget. Phone charger. Ibuprofen. The kids’ pool floaties. So we’d eaten standing over the counter instead. The kids have abandoned their divided plastic plates to go play, and the plates sit there in front of us, streaked with sauce and crumbs and the partially eaten crusts of their frozen pizza. Andrew and I are tearing at a loaf of Trader Joe’s cheese bread and calling it dinner.
“You stop at a gas station and then, after driving fifteen minutes you realize . . . Dane’s not there!”
“Shut up,” I say with my mouth full of bread. “That’s not going to happen.”
“Mom!” Dane calls from the living room. “We don’t say that word!”
Andrew raises his eyebrows and shakes his head at me. “Yeah, Mom. We don’t say that word.” And I kick him halfheartedly in the calf.
“You’re right. We don’t,” I call over the partition between the kitchen and the living room. “Sorry.” Then I turn back to Andrew and whisper, “I’m not going to lose Dane.”
“But you do. ROAD-TRIP SCENARIO. What’re you gonna do?”
“I don’t know. Panic. Drive back to the gas station. Why are you messing with my mind?”
“Wrong!” Andrew shouts gleefully. “He was hiding under all your tote bags! You should have stopped and searched the car first! You lose!”
I smack him with a book from the stack on the counter. “Jerk.”
“Mom!” Dane says again.
Andrew has been making fun of my tote bags ever since he came up to our bedroom last night to find me hastily unpacking one of them, surrounded by dozens of piles of clothes, staring bewildered at the mess in front of me. I’d been packing too long, and it had all started to run together--all those bags, all those clothes. I couldn’t remember what I’d done and what I had left to do. What was in the Nashville bag? Where did I put that one pair of jeans? Which bag did I put the purple dress in? Had I remembered diapers in the Indy tote bag for Liam? Would we need sweatshirts in Georgia?
“Why don’t you just put everything in one big suitcase?” he’d asked me as I dumped out a canvas Festival Foods bag that I’d labeled chicago--boys and prepared to start over with it.
“Because,” I’d said, separating the dumped clothes back into piles--one for Dane, one for Liam. I needed three outfits for each of them, plus an extra in case of an EMERGENCY. Plus twelve--might as well make it fifteen--diapers for Liam. “This way I don’t have to haul everything in every time we stop. We’ll have just what we need for that place.”
“Looks like it’s working . . . great.”
He’d laughed and kissed the top of my head then, and I’d thrown a sandal at him in mock exasperation as he slipped behind the door and went back downstairs to watch the Winter Olympics on NBC. I could hear him laughing all the way down.
Now I look over at the kitchen table, lined with those tote bags. It’s taken me something like four hours to get them packed, labeled, and hauled down here. I’m not about to admit it to my husband, but I’m only 60 to 65 percent sure that I have everything we need.
I look across the kitchen counter at him, shake my head. “I’m not a fan of your little SCENARIO game,” I tell him, pulling off another chunk of bread.
“Sure you are,” he says.
Liam trundles in then, swaggering like a cowboy, static-haired and pink-cheeked. “Milk!” he demands.
“How do you ask?” Andrew and I say at the same time.
Andrew goes to get a sippy cup out of the cupboard, and I watch him. His hair is getting a little shaggy at the bottom, and he’s wearing that worn blue thermal shirt that’s got holes under the armpits. We are in the middle of our red-painted kitchen, in the middle of our tenth year of marriage, in the early-middle years of our lives.
The Big Life Decisions that filled our twenties have, more or less, been made. We bought the dog and the furniture and the house in the suburbs. We had our babies, and then we had our miscarriages, and that last stark image of an empty sac on the ultrasound screen seemed so personal, so final--a period at the end of the question that was our family.
We’d settled into our family of four then, sprawled into the empty bedrooms of our home, traded in my little red pickup truck for that Honda Odyssey minivan with automatic sliding doors. I sold the baby swing at a garage sale, and he took the crib apart, and we sent Dane to preschool.
After ten years of marriage, we have grown used to each other’s body, the space we take up in the bed at night, the ways we curve into each other during sex. We have become a series of small intimacies: leaning against the kitchen counter, dinner not quite done on the stove, our conversation interrupted over and over by escalating quarrels from the living room.
We are in love; we are a dozen years away from the heady, crackling experience of falling in love. I shave the back of his neck when he gives himself a haircut over our bathroom sink; he jump-starts the van when I forget to turn off the lights and kill the battery. His face feels more familiar to me than my own as I look at him across the counter: that wide smile, those dimples and crow’s-feet that have deepened into his face, the way his black glasses sit on the bridge of his nose. The way his eyes squint when he smiles, when he says “SCENARIO.” The sound of his laugh when I roll my eyes.
“Oh, come on, Presh,” he begs, calling me by our abbreviated version of Precious--a name that started as a sappy joke but has become, over the years, the sentimental shorthand of our love. He says it so often that every once in a while Dane and Liam call me Presh, too.
“Okay.” I soften. “I’ll play your dumb game.”
“We don’t say dumb, Mom!”
“SCENARIO: You’re halfway to Chicago when all of a sudden you hear a little yip-yip coming from the back of the van.”
“You wouldn’t,” I say flatly. Our small, black-and-white Havanese-Lhasa mix looks up from under my stool with big, innocent, cataract-blurred eyes. He’s been sitting there all throughout dinner, waiting for me to drop something.
“Marty has decided to come with you! Your dog stowed away!” Andrew’s voice takes on the familiar raspy quality of his laughter. “What do you do?”
“Kill you,” I say. “Beg my parents to keep him for two weeks at their place until we swing back through Chicago.”
“Aw, come on! You can’t handle one more fuzzy, friendly passenger on your Epic Road Trip?”
I fill my glass of red wine a tiny bit more. “I can’t even handle one more tote bag.”
Andrew laughs big, and it echoes against the vaulted ceilings, into the living room where Curious George is blaring, where Dane is raking noisily through the Legos, where the small, regular routines of our family unfold every day.
I smile at him, and I feel a low-grade ache at the base of my stomach.
I don’t really want to leave him for two weeks. But the truth is, I’ve already thought through every terrible turn the road trip could take, and not one of them scares me like the dark scenarios that lurk in the dull light of the Minnesota winter and the depths of my own heart.
I’m not running away from him; I’m just running away. I’m taking a temporary absence from the subzero temperatures and salt-smeared roads. The fact that I am a stay-at-home mom feels like a convenient escape hatch from my life. I can take my children with me, bring this circus on the road, and call it an Epic Road Trip. I can chalk it up to a memorable experience and a winter vacation, and the festive spontaneity of the whole enterprise could almost make me forget that I’m running away at all. Though, of course, I am. I’m running away from my quickly depleting stash of Trader Joe’s wine and from the endless pitch-black mornings, buzzing with a loaded kind of silence, sending me reeling into the echoing caverns of my own heart. I’m running away, maybe, from myself. Making one last-ditch dash toward the light.
The first time I found myself feeling this way--so darkly cavernous, so terrifyingly numb--was seven years ago.
I was twenty-three--married three and a half years, working my first grown-up job--an entry-level position writing online help modules from a gray cubicle in an office park.
That year I’d gotten into a habit of waking up at five thirty, groping for my work clothes in the dark while Andrew slept, and then slipping out of the apartment before he woke, careful not to let the door slam on my way out. It was a 1.4-mile drive through the dark stillness of pre–rush hour to the coffeehouse where baristas greeted me by name. I was among the Regulars--most of them middle-aged businessmen who came to sit at highboy tables and read their newspapers. They’d nod and grunt when I walked by. “How ya doin’?” they’d ask, and I’d tap them amicably on the shoulder and chirp, “Fine, fine.”
But when the Regulars went back to their papers, I slouched deep into the faux-leather chair at the back of the coffee shop and guzzled dark roast so fast that I burned my tongue raw. In my lap the black Thinline Bible lay as heavy and unresponsive as a slab of concrete, wrinkling my business casual. The journal I kept that year was road-trip themed, though I felt myself going nowhere. Even my pen felt like a stopped-up bottle of Elmer’s glue as I tried to write, write, write my way back to the girl I remembered being.
The girl I wanted to be was the seventeen-year-old version of myself--slender and sweetly wide-eyed, with size-two jeans and a white-blond ponytail and that colorful beaded necklace that I’d made while working as a counselor at a Christian summer camp. I missed the easy way I used to smile, the easy faith that welled up in my heart each morning like a sunrise and propelled me to the empty high-school parking lot an hour before class each day for Prayer Group.
That girl made journals out of vintage books and filled one each month with long, sappy prayers. She was the product of the vibrant nineties’ evangelical culture--of youth rallies and Christian rock and Christian teen-romance novels. Her theology bore a striking resemblance to a bad Hallmark TV movie. God was the hero, she was the heroine, and everything felt sparkly and enchanted.
She was, admittedly, a little naïve, a little performance-driven, a little young. But at least she felt God. At least she felt something.
At the coffee shop that year, I clung to the arms of my black faux-leather chair as though it were the helm of a ship, the steering room of my sinking spirituality, the only place where I had any shred of control over what was happening to me. I wrote and read, underlined verses, ran my tongue along the bumpy, tender place at the roof of my mouth where the coffee had scalded me. I filled out Beth Moore Bible-study workbooks and listened as wiry headphones pumped sermons into my ears. More than anything I wanted to tunnel backward through the foggy ether to that girl--the one who felt it all.
But winter eased into spring and then sank deep into a muggy Minnesota summer, and nothing seemed to happen. Eventually I gave up trying to find her.
Instead I began to spend dusky late afternoons on a barstool at Don Pablo’s, half sprawled into my bowl-size margarita long after most of my group had left the company happy hour. The bald-headed bartender learned my name and started putting extra tequila into my margs, and I learned that if I couldn’t feel God, at least I could feel this--the rushing wave of alcohol lifting me up, up, up . . . and over.
That summer I was disrupting poetry readings with loudly slurred accolades, garnering the reproachful glances of the Minneapolis literati. I was sending peals of metallic laughter through darkly lit bars, and anyone who knew me would have known that this tinny sound was not happiness but desperation.
Then again, no one there knew me. Not really. Men whom I’d never seen swiveled on their barstools, gave me the once-over, and I grew drunker still on the heady feeling of approval. If it wasn’t going to be that exhilarating storybook romance with God that I’d been sold at age sixteen, then I’d settle for these small flirtations. I began to seek it out, to seek men out in car windows on the highway, in the hallways of the office, and from the faux-leather chair in the coffee shop, where I’d traded in the Bible for a novel--and then, eventually, for a brown-eyed graphic designer who looked at me like I was the moon.
In the end the frantic, churning darkness that propelled me through that long year had been about a lot of things. It had been about my own loneliness and about God’s silence and about a faith that had cracked wide open to reveal so many gaps. And, as it turned out, it had also been about clinical depression--a term that I’d thought was reserved for those who’d experienced actual trauma in their lives but which was somehow assigned to me when I finally walked into a therapist’s office several months later. The almost-affair I’d been having had detonated like a land mine, sending sharp curls of shrapnel into my marriage, and I walked into Dr. Martin’s office that first day a little hungover, a little weepy, a little shattered.
It was a long time ago.
Sitting in the kitchen with Andrew now, I almost can’t remember what it felt like to sit in the sunken center of that leather couch, surrounded on all sides by geometric-patterned throw pillows--the ones that Dr. Martin sometimes made me punch in our sessions--the tamped-down defeat and sadness muffled again and again as I beat the cushions flat. The clock ticked, and I stared at the concentric circles on the rug, and week by week I clawed my way out of that dark place until I felt sure I had somehow emerged.