I grew up in a garden. Like Adam and Eve had everything they needed with little effort, as a child, I did too. My parents loved each other, loved the Lord and loved me. I had food every day. Even my voracious curiosity was fed. It was a paradise.
At home and at school, if you did what you were supposed to, you were rewarded. Kind and responsible adults made sure to reinforce good choices with extra freedom or extra opportunities. People who didn’t do their homework sat out at recess and had to do it. Life seemed relatively fair. What I didn’t realize was that this fairness was at least partially artificial. I was protected and blessed by the adults and structures they created in my life. The real world is not so clear and kind.
At some point of painful growth, I think we all have to shed the benevolent exoskeleton of our childhood. We have to leave the garden and move out into the real world. It is a fall, and the smack with reality hurts like a face plant into a brick wall.
If I am kind to people, they are not necessarily kind back.
If I give, I am not necessarily given back to in my time of need.
If I keep the commandments, I am not always happy.
And we run head first into painful realities that do not match up with our garden of origin.
I was just talking to a young adult who works at a gas station and is struggling to “pay the bills.” I could see the struggle and pain in his eyes. It was harder, much harder than he expected.
One of my daughters said to me, “Mom, I think “there is always room at the top” isn’t always true. I think there are other places to be.” Her high hopes are tempered by the pounding of reality. It isn’t that we don’t aim high, it is that there are many definitions, in many contexts.
It is amazing isn’t it, that all of us don’t curl up at these frightening times and just die with absolute consternation. “This isn’t what I signed up for!” I usually feel like yelling. I didn’t work this hard for this result. But, I guess I did. At many growth points when facing an unwelcome or unexpected reality I’ve suffered some type of depression.
An elder at church said today, “Failure is an option.”
We fail and fall and fall and fail again, drowning under waves of incessant reality.
There comes a time when we can no longer go on the way things are. Something has to change.
As difficult as it is, this is a time to celebrate. It gives us the inertia to do something new and find something better.
It began without me knowing why–
I only found a wiggle.
My baby tooth that was so firm–
had just begun to jiggle.
I pulled it here. I pushed it there–
but it would not break free.
“Oh, fine,” I said. “It just won’t go–
Well, that’s okay with me.”
“Ignore it. Think of other things”
was my plan of sure success.
But twisting, wiggling, and bugging me so
I gave up in distress.
That stubborn tooth was at a loss,
though I really couldn’t see;
a better tooth was coming up
unbeknownst to me.