Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hope is a Thing With Feathers

Have you ever yearned for something for fifteen years? I mean earnestly begged God, and yet heaven seems silent. Maintaining a desire for a long period of time against all odds becomes more difficult with every moment that desire is denied. Langston Hughes puts it this way, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”

Even though my dream withered in the dryness there was always a hope that waited in the midst ready to encourage my soul to go on. Another famous poet, Emily Dickinson said, “ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers- That perches in the soul.”  I can picture a little bird, hope, perching or nesting in my soul. Taking up residence and refusing to move on even when conditions are the worst. That hope, that things would one day be different, kept me going.

Years further down the road, with those differences complete, it would be easy to forget- to just go on. Some would say that is the thing to do. I would differ with them. Even those who trudge on must admit that an undealt with past keeps pulling you back as if swimming in rip-tide. Sense must be made of our journey- at least to the point where we reflect and see it for what it truly was.

My writing Leave Him? has allowed me to do that necessary looking back, making sense of things without getting stuck in the past. This excerpt explains:


Dear Younger Me
Sometimes it felt funny to be free. The chains that were now gone still refused to release their invisible hold, then all of the sudden they let loose.
I remembered breaking my arm when I was in seventh grade. I had to wear an itchy, at times stinky, cast to repair the fracture. The weight of that cast followed me everywhere—playing tennis, attending school, even sleeping in my bed. At first it was quite burdensome, then, at the end of the month and a half, it became an accepted heaviness. Burdens and hardships are like that. They weigh us down, and we get used to them, not even remembering a different way. The day had come for my cast to be removed. A simple cut along the edge of the plaster and my arm was free. Free and oh so light—too light. It felt uncertain, fragile in its newfound freedom. It took some time to adjust—to feel right again.
    For me, that time to adjust to freedom had been lengthy. A long string of what if I’s kept running through my thoughts in my attempt to feel right. If you think of life as a linear progression, a process of traveling down a fated path, it would be entirely possible at mid-life to look back for a place where a wrong turn was made. Instead, I began to see life may be more like a meandering walk, instead of a train ride. A trail with no predestined end and many things to behold along the way. Some beautiful, some painfully disturbing. The freedom of walking down my meandering path of life brought an unsettling feeling of freedom—one I must get used to.
    I held a vaguely familiar, yet different seven-month-old boy in front of me. His eyes, a deep blue like his daddy’s, his little build, thick and muscular like his daddy, his humor pleasant like his daddy, yet he was an unique creation. Somewhere in his squirmy, joyful movements I saw a glimmer of something more. Holding him in my arms I felt a connection, a finishing touch, maybe even a fruit of some of my meandering path.
Thirty-three years before his grandfather and I started what would be his legacy. I thought about how I wished his grandfather had seen him, the real Mark, the father of James, then I realized that he had seen him. He sees him more than I ever will. The train-ride mentality would say that Mark didn’t make it to the destination, and that maybe I got off-track leaving him. Life being a winding path with varying destinations available says that I still had choices to make, experiences to gather.
As I held the chubby little hand, his fingers closed around mine, I hoped and prayed that he would not have to wait until he was as old as me to know that the heavenly father loved him, not based on the choices that he made or the things that he does, but just because he is his, as he is mine. As I continue to explore this life of mine, taking turns and side-trips along the way, I must remember that when my freedom feels too light, like I’m not quite grounded enough, that God is waiting, wanting to hold my not so tiny, little hand in the same acceptance that I feel with this child.

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