Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might, for in Sheol, where you are going, there is no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.
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2 Corinthians 7:8-16
I arose early last Monday to push myself — in secret, and with the sound on the TV turned way, way low — through a “Crunch” exercise video loaned to me by Kim, a friend from church. I recognized almost immediately that a few of the pretend class attenders were actual dancers. It was so obvious. If I spent a straight month studying the moves on that first dance step, I wouldn’t be able to wiggle and shimmy with that same Broadway pinache displayed by the girl in the back row. It struck me then, in a moment of stark, heart-stopping clarity: I’m never going to be a dancer. Oh, I might get up early now and then, tug the curtains closed so all the potential peek-gaps are covered, and fake my way through the Salsa and Samba and Funky whatever, but that won’t make me a real dancer. No, that train passed by me somewhere in my teens or early twenties.
I dwelt on that thought long enough to add it to a growing list in my head. I reached into my brain, found the shelf entitled Never and made room for dancer right next to pro baseball player. That particular “never” had been a tough one. One afternoon, long ago, while watching a rousing game and discussing with Dave the intricacies of the squeeze play, it had struck me that I’d never round third base while the crowd roared, never scratch and spit on live TV, never smack a ball against a distant light and send sparkles of “She’s amazing!” falling to the field (a la The Natural.) The fact that I can’t be a pro baseball player has nothing to do with the passing of time, and everything to do with my gender. Mark my words, though: had I been born male, I would surely have moved mountains if those had stood in the way of me and my destiny.
I tucked the exercise CD safely out of sight, showered, and accepted Dave’s invitation to run errands with him. Somewhere after breakfast, a stop at the co-op and a run to the post office, we ended up at the Oso lumber yard out near Arlington. After hunting and pecking up in the rafters, the clerk agreed to let us leave with two flimsy, hardly-worth-the-effort tin pipe clamps if we agreed to leave $20 on the counter. Do I have to tell you that I heard about that $20 all the way home? Anyway, while still standing in the lumber yard, my mind drifted as if often does and I began thinking about all it had taken to establish a lumber yard business on that particular stretch of land. They’d had to pave the whole parcel, and enclose the yard itself in cyclone fencing. They’d had to erect a large metal building . . . and buy a fleet of forklifts … and slap together enough shelving to hold all the over-priced tin accessories. And then it hit me: I’m never going to own a lumber yard.
We went to Starbucks. That’s what you do when you realize your life is passing before your eyes. Of course, Dave didn’t know that was the driving force behind my espresso thirst, but I did. And standing in line, staring at the girl who had just taken my order, I realized I probably wasn’t going to ever stand behind a counter myself and scribble on a pristine cup, “tall-2 pump peppermint, 2 pump mocha-1 1/2 inch steamed Breve Americano” in secret Starbucks code, either.
It’s odd to spend a day accumulating “nevers.” It puts you in a pensive mood. But fortunately, enough Little Mary Sunshine lurked in my being that I found a way to turn those “nevers” around. No, I will never be a dancer, a pro baseball player, a lumberyard owner or a barista. But I’m a pastor’s wife. I’m a mother. I’m a writer, and an editor, and a teacher, and a friend. And I suppose you could do worse with a life than to spend it trying to be the best pastor’s wife-mother-writer-editor-teacher-friend you can be. So I will Cha-Cha in the mornings and admire the real dancers. I will continue to cheer the Mariners (and don’t you DARE say a word against my boys) and try my best not to covet all that fun. I will buy my overpriced pieces of metal from the Oso lumberyard and not make under-my-breath comments about how I wouldn’t dare fleece my own customers that way. I will rattle off my complicated order to the barista at Starbucks and ooh and ahh at her ability to catch it all.
And I’ll play the roles I’ve been given — with every ounce of energy I possess.