A new year looms before me. The digit 13 will change to 14. It begs some thought on my part. I should never have seen the digit change to 12. I was projected to die in 2011. And now I will see 14. So many more months of life that I have been able to treasure with my husband and son and parents and brothers and friends..... God has been amazingly good to me.
Today I am offered the question, Was this the life you would have chosen? And the answer is No, of course not!! I would not have chosen lung cancer. I would not have chosen vitreous detachments. Looking even further back, no, I would not have chosen 6 years of infertility or bouts of depression. I did not sign up for any of that.
But do any of us ever really live the life the thought we would have? For better or for worse, most of our lives are not what germinated in our brains as children and teens and young adults. Some of us got hit really hard. Some of us got blessed abundantly. But I think most of us have had a modicum of both, and much of it was not planned.
The life I thought I would have did not have incurable cancer written into its middle chapters. Everything about that feels so very wrong. But the life I thought I would have did not include a husband who is both a secure, solid rock and a gentle loving servant. I did not think I would have one amazing child who fills me with unspeakable joy. I did not think I would have an army of friends who have loved me in spite of seeing the worst in me.
Life is what life is. It is riddled with much of what I never anticipated. And were it not for the grace of God, I would not be able to absorb the pain and disappointment that is laced into the blessings I never expected.
It makes me think of the iconic song by Garth Brooks, The Dance:
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance,
I could have missed the pain,
but I'd have had to miss the dance.
If someone had asked me at age 20, if, knowing what pain was ahead, would I still want to "do life," I'm not sure what I would have said. At 20, we are trying to hitch our wagons to stars, and the thought of infertility or cancer or depression or any number of other issues I have had to face may have seemed like life would not be worth living.
All these years later, now painting my life with the colors of middle age, I could say to the 20-year-old me, DO IT. Don't miss the dance. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is grief and disappointment and struggle, but oh, there is the dance.....
The dance of being loved and loving. The dance of nurturing and molding a tiny new life. The dance of living with your Savior and Shepherd who gives all that you need. The dance of summers at the cabin and wonderful books and friends flocking around you in prayer and love. The dance of seeing the eyes of your students light up with a new realization they have just made through your words. The dance of seeing answers to prayers so deeply prayed that they could be nothing less than miracles.
Ah, the dance. We cannot forego the pain to miss the dance.
God has allowed pain in my life. He has allowed even greater joy. No, this life I lead is not the life I saw as a North Dakota teenager. It has been different. It has been much harder. It has been much better. But for my faith in God's sovereignty, the "harder" parts may have stolen my very breath away. But I am still walking forward in this different-than-expected life I have been given.
I do not know what is ahead. For even tomorrow. And I do not want to know. History tells me that in 2014, I will both cry and rejoice. Conventional wisdom says that hands down, I will encounter joys and pains I never envisioned once in a little girl's dream.
Perhaps it is the great secret of the universe, that in the end, none of our lives really resemble what we dreamed about. And perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves in this new year is letting go of the life we planned in order to embrace the life that we now have.....the life that maybe we were meant to live all along.
A BLESSED NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL..........