I am on the local train toward my suburban home. I am with my adult son, my third child. I’m thinking about the days when I travelled this same route twice a day to go to my college classes at the art school. It simply cannot be as long ago as it was.
But it’s undeniable, because this son of mine was a far-off dream in those old days, and he’s 24.
My husband and I met in high school and, after some minor bumps in our road, we both knew we were meant to be together. We decided to attend art school together. We were impatient to get married.
We imagined our life together, and our flights of anticipation were based on a vision. All we wanted was to finally get married, eventually have a big old house like the one I grew up in, and have several children. I would probably be a stay-at-home mom. Oh, and we would be very cool artists.
(Notice what is missing from these plans: a solid idea about jobs or careers. But I digress.)
The vision for our future was rather specific. We wanted a house very much like the Victorian-era Arts and Crafts house I lived in as a child, even though it might be much lived-in and in need of a little work. And we wanted to fill that house with six children.
Our vision, our purpose in life, was to be married and raise a family. It seemed the perfect life. It was what was really important. It had everything we could ever want. The how would work itself out.
Vision is crystal clear and very fuzzy. It is specific and general. The important elements are chiseled in stone, but the less detailed variables are taken on faith. We were content to let a whole lot just happen, as long as we had each other, and we shared our vision.
On the train ride, I’m comparing the vision with the hindsight. Have I seen with my eyes what I saw in my vision?
It turns out that the vision we had was remarkably accurate. We graduated from college, we got married and we have had a blessedly successful marriage. We eventually bought a house on the same street as that house I grew up in, and it’s basically the same house.
We have six children, three boys and three girls.
I’m freshly struck with how close the outcome has been to our vision. Could we have made it happen, by hook or by crook?
We did not hold out for these exact specifications; this house fell into our lap at the right time. And the six kids? Believe me when I tell you that we deliberately didn’t micromanage that outcome. I really don’t think we could have arranged this life deliberately.
Could we have made that vision happen? No, but Someone could.
We saw the big things; we let the rest happen. We learned on the curve as we went along. We saw the important things, and our pre-vision was clear as day. We never doubted and we are living our dream.
But there were things that we did not see in our innocent vision.
In our youthful optimism and energy, we did not see how hard the work would be. Our 20 to 22 year-old selves could not have conceived of the sheer work required to maintain this life, the perseverance required to steward this family.
I did not see how ill-prepared I was for the overwhelming role of motherhood, how badly I would handle those stresses. How I would struggle, vainly for awhile, with being a patient, even-tempered mother.
How that would impact my children.
We did not expect that I would be doing this job while managing a chronic illness.
We certainly could not expect to be given the children that we got. Let me get the negative-sounding part out before I gush. They are brilliant, but we live in a fallen world. They struggle with genetic perfect storms of acronyms which are just debilitating enough to make life interesting, but not enough to make them dysfunctional. You could make the case that even the imperfections serve to make us better people than we’d be without them. Let’s just say they are not boring people, OK?
The house, though we love it, will never be as we’d like to see it. If only we had the money, we often say, this place would be the most beautiful house ever. That will never be. It will always and forever be in dire need of repair or renovation somewhere. Or almost everywhere. The kids’ rooms will not be done until they are long gone.
The one part we could really have planned, even micromanaged, is the one part we blissfully ignored. We both graduated into adult life with degrees which were as useful as gladiator degrees. We had no specific plans for how to make a living. To my undying gratitude and admiration, my husband has faithfully and conscientiously persevered at a career he did not plan to be in at all.
Our vision did not include great wealth and financial ease, and that part has been remarkably accurate as well.
There are yet more things our young vision could not predict.
We could not have planned for the truly awesome people that each one of our children are. I watch and believe for the things they will do.
We could not have known or imagined, in a million years, how good marriage can be, and has been.
We have lived enough life to begin to see God’s goodness. How he really does work all things, not exactly in our personal favor in a superficial sense, but toward a pure unalloyed whole Good which we become participants within. We receive good reflected back upon us from His perfect Good Work, and that good works its way into our broken lives and resolves things in ways we couldn’t have imagined. And if we are just this side of humble-enough-to-learn, we see that His Good is better than our “good.”