My wife is the most courageous person I know (and I’m not saying that in the flattering-Facebook-status-attention-getter way). I always say one of the primary reasons I asked her to marry me was because I knew she would forever move me, never letting me settle halfway. Her journey the past decade or so has provided endless proof to the truth of this claim. There is all sorts of storyline that explains the evidence in depth, but you’ll have to have a 12 hour coffee with her sometime to start into that.
I’ll just start at the chapter where she failed to pass the bar exam here in Alaska. There had been such momentum leading up to the test, and such wind behind the dreams we anticipated fulfilling shortly afterward. We had the timing down and the puzzle pieces arranged, and we were already riding off into the sunset. Then, while we blinked, the sun suddenly set and we had to backtrack to the previous lodging where we would be staying for an extra year, studying the laws about how to ride into the sunset… or something like that.
It’s funny that we think we can control our own story. I’ve always loved and hated that proverb that says, “In his mind a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” I might rewrite that proverb to say “Sure, go ahead and decide what you’re going to do, but you might as well accept that God is going to end up messing it up.” Then I would pause and add an asterisk that lead to a footnote that reads: “But He’ll do so in a way that is much more painful, confusing, colorful, and ultimately fulfilling.”
I was grasping hard for perspective in our Palmer apartment as I watched the snow creep down Lazy Mountain and team up with the ever-shortening, ever-darkening days, as if they were collectively flexing their muscles and declaring their dominance over the residents of our quaint, unsuspecting, town. I said to myself, “I’m looking forward to looking back on this.” I’d been through enough in my short 32 years to know that things rarely, if ever, go according to plan. Hindsight had become a good friend, and I was calling on him far from the type of location where he tends to show up.
Marisa always skipped that track on the album. As a principle, I like to wallow in my despair, and she likes to press through it like a tunnel through a mountain. Maybe that’s where she earns her badge of courage. These days we can effectively listen to the song together, here in the place where hindsight actually does reside and looking back is actually enjoyable. On the far side of the mountain. Where the weight that felt so discouraging before has turned to gold.
John Lennon had his own interpretation of the aforementioned proverb, and he included it in a song he wrote for his newborn son: “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I think the strongest hope is birthed in the most hopeless places. And those who dare to continue to plan their way while welcoming the direction of heaven have found the better way.