I’ve been thinking about transition, dreams, and contentment a bit lately. It’s that time of year when my family asks me for a Christmas list because, for many of us, our love language is giving gifts. Or, at least, it’s one of our love languages, a way of saying, I value you, I treasure you, I want you to be happy.
So, my cousin contacted us to let us know that our lists were insufficient. Probably because my grandpa starts Christmas shopping in July. So last night, just before we turned in, my husband remarked, “I don’t know what else to ask for that’s not really expensive.” I thought for a moment, then named 5-6 things I could imagine he could want or need. We laughed at how well I knew him and how good I am at thinking of gifts. Then I asked him to try to do the same for me, since I don’t have any idea of what to add to my list either. He was stumped. I think his exact words were, “If I knew what you wanted, I would know what to get you every year.”
As I lay down, I pondered his words. Why is it that I don’t want things? Why is it that I can’t come up with a good list of things that can be ordered and wrapped and given? Honestly, I think it’s because I’m content with my life for the most part. I have everything I need and then some. Sure, we have recurring needs – diapers, wipes, food, gas, etc. – but not the kinds of things that most folks think make good gifts.
But I refuse this year to ask for wasteful things. In the past, I’ve filled up lists with books that look good that I’ve never read, movies I like but never sit down to watch, or music that sits dormant on an ancient iPod. There’s something within me that has known this was not right, but this year, is adamant in saying, “No!”
Perhaps it’s because I’m in a different place this year. I’ve now been a mom for over a year and my perspective has been radically, irrevocably changed. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been in transition for that year and am just now finding my footing again. The transition of my body that occurred during the birth of my son – that agonizing, amazing time – was only the beginning of this transition of my life.
Recently on Facebook, I’ve been reminded of the fragility of our lives and how many things can cause these transitions. A friend posted the other day that it was 2 months ago that his daughter was born, who has since died. Then today, a friend who had announced that they were expecting shared the hard news that they had miscarried. It all made me think of this poem:
“Harlem” by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Sometimes transition comes on the heels of a dream deferred. And lately, in my experience, that has looked like the lives of children being tragically short. I look at my son, who laughs and plays and tries to run, feeling the precarious nature of things. Last week in youth, we talked about joy and I taught that joy is an abiding gift of God that is deeper than happiness. I wonder in those moments of watching my child, if I could still feel joy if something happened. I trust, by faith, that joy would still be waiting, like a deep pool of peaceful waters, beneath the tumult of trouble or despair.
But when you’re in transition – when all you can do is breathe and cry and curse and try to run from the inescapable pain that will not be denied because it is a part of you – it can be hard to know anything else. I pray for all of us that we will not dry up or fester or rot or become sickeningly sweet or sag or explode. I don’t believe that is the will of God. I believe the tragic times of transition in our lives are a byproduct of the broken, sinful world we live in. But I also believe that God is with us in the transition, no matter how painful, waiting expectantly to bring new life into being.