Sometimes I feel like a broken promise. Sure I break promises now and then, but I’m not talking about the verbal promises I make and then break. I’m talking about me – the woman – being the broken promise.
When we give birth, our babies hold so much promise. We wonder what great things they will do or what kind of people they will become. We dream of their bright futures. As the youngest, and the only girl, in my family I wonder what kind of promise I held for my parents. I also wonder what it was like for them to realize I was not going to be all that they had hoped.
If you were to ask them today, they would tell you that I have given them more joy than they could have imagined. I know they love me dearly and they write the most meaningful notes and cards to tell me so. Yet, I also know that I’ve caused them heartache and worry. I know that I have probably not lived up to the promise that they once thought I had.
I am not trying to be self-deprecating, rather I am making observations. This whole subject surfaced today as I was driving to meet a friend’s new baby. On the way, I passed a retreat center where I had stayed when my dad was critically ill one summer. He was on the brink of death but I took the invitation of a friend to spend the weekend in prayer and meditation. While I was there I participated in a prayer labyrinth, where you pray through a maze as a way to slow down and really commune with God.
It was such a moving experience that as I left the retreat, I purchased a photo of the labyrinth and wrote a note to my dad. I promised him that when he got better, we would go to the center and go on that prayer walk together.
Today as I passed the entrance, on my way to visit baby Annabelle, I realized I had broken my promise. That’s when I started this thought of broken promises – I had not followed through on my word and I was about to see a baby that held so much promise.
Little Annabelle is so tiny. So sweet. So perfect. Give her some time though and she’ll throw herself down in a full-blown tantrum. Then the day will come when she’ll roll her eyes at her mom or get embarrassed by her dad. But thankfully our babies don’t start that way. (I would fear for the human race if they did.) Life starts with so much grace heaped upon us that it’s no wonder we cry out eventually when we are denied what we want. We poop and everyone thinks it’s cute.
“Ahhh, did you just go poo-poo, Sweet Thing? Let’s get you a clean diapey wipey.”
Or we spit out our food on grandma’s new sweater.
“Oh my, you must have a full tummy, Dear. Let’s get a cloth to clean up this messy wessy.”
That’s not so cute when you’re about 6, and it’s downright disgusting by the time you’re an adult. So what gives? What happens from the time we’re the cute, little, do-no-wrong, people into the why-can’t-you-do-anything-right people?
Boil it down and it comes to these four letters: s-e-l-f. We discover ourselves. We move from being so dependent and focused on our parents or caregivers to being focused on ourselves and what makes us feel good or bad. We try to recreate the things that make us feel good, and we try to find a way to eliminate or run from the things that make us feel bad. And that’s not even mentioning the things that make us feel – nothing – or bored or indfifferent. But even in the in-between states, we are still self-obsessd people.
I had a friend recently tell me that we are addicted to comfort. I concur. I have not pursued the prayer walk with my dad because part of me is uncomfortable sharing such an intimate, vulnerable moment with him. And so I chose myself over my promise. And it probably won’t be the last time I do that. Yet, I am a firm believer that self-discovery is a portal to a new way of living, if we will be fiercly honest about our selfishness and humble enough to admit we have chosen our way over God’s way. The discovery alone will not do us any good if we are not willing to loosen our grip on those things that are causing us to live in any way other than the one we were meant to live. The life filled with promise, even if it is a life of imperfection and brokenness. It is the life we were given to live by the God who made us to live it.