I was the first in line for the swings. But as my 7 year old body hoisted the 45lbs of my slight frame onto the swing, the recess aid asked the dreaded question, “Are you wearing your gym shorts under your jumper?” My answer was, “No, but I can keep my dress from flying up, I promise.”
“I’m sorry honey, you know the rules; try to remember your gym shorts next time.”
My turn was over before I could even as much as pump my legs. And not only that, but I wasn’t allowed to play on the monkey bars without shorts on either. I headed over to the cluster of trees where the fourth graders played house, to do the only thing left to do at recess: pretend to be the baby of some bossy fourth grade girl. Tomorrow would be the fourth graders day on the swings, and I would have to wait until the day after that to get my chance again. But I would never be first in line again. Everyone knows that if you are first in line you get the most turns on the swing. I was never first in line, until today, and I feared I would never be first again.
That night my tired seven year-old body had a nightmare:
I was in line for the swings, I had my shorts on, but when my turn approached and the recess aid called the names of the next two swingers, she didn’t say my name. She called the kid behind me. I thought, “This must be a mistake, but she’ll see me next time.” But the next time she didn’t call my name either. Was I invisible? I’ve been waiting for my turn for so long! And then I was skipped so many times that some kids started getting their second turn before I even got my first! And then their third turn! And at first I was scared to leave the line and complain for fear of losing my spot, but now I knew it didn’t matter. So I ran at the recess aid in rage and demanded an explanation but she couldn’t hear or see me. She ignored me. So I tried to force my turn at the swings, but every time I made it to the swings, as the kids were switching turns, I was never able to get on the swing. And then I was on the ground while someone was swinging over top of me and I couldn’t get up without getting knocked over by the moving swings. The more I tried to force my turn, the more hurt I became.
I woke up cold with sweat. Thank goodness it was just a dream.
But 22 years later this seems like my reality. I am reminded of that feeling every time another person gets pregnant before me. And now, people are having their seconds, thirds, and fourth turns before I have had my first. It doesn’t seem fair. I feel like a first grader all over again and I can’t even play on the monkey bars, because there is a line there too…
Yesterday, as I contemplated this feeling, I feared it would take over. It hasn’t taken over in a while. I’ve been able to happily play in the designated area God has given me. Not without longingly gazing over to the swings and wishing, but with joy and fun just the same. It’s scary though, to be happy. When I see my friend get her turn on the swing, I get excited for her, but at any time that happiness can switch to feeling a little sad for myself. And sadness can easily turn into jealousy, bitterness, and anger. I don’t want to be that person again. So, I try not to feel at all. For some reason I think if I don’t feel happy for someone else then I won’t feel sad for myself.
But sometimes one of my friends gets another turn, and watching her swing is the most beautiful thing in the world. She flips, and jumps, and glides in a way that others don’t and watching her swing is a treat. So, I get excited. I squeal with joy that I can watch and then discuss with her afterword, “when you let go of the chains and swung without hands…wow!!!” And she tells me what it felt like, and I can imagine what it feels like to have the wind whip your hair around your face and I feel a part of it. What a gift it is for me. And then a little feeling of, “when will it be my turn?” creeps in. It always does. It’s just a matter of time before it does. And then I have to make a choice: stuff it, face it, or feed it.
The choice seems easy, but it’s not. Sometimes it feels so good to just pretend it’s not there. It feels good when others think, “Wow that Liz has been waiting for her turn for almost 7 years and yet she can be so joyful…that’s cool, God must be working in her.” But if I stuff it too long then it comes out eventually and when that happens “it ain’t pretty.”
And feeding that feeling doesn’t work out well either. When I feed the monster, the monster gets bigger and stronger. I don’t want to feed the monster. I want to feed the Truth.
Yesterday I fed the Truth. I spent time in the word. I spent time praising God. I cried a little. I laughed a lot. I got goosebumps every time I thought of my friend getting another chance and her little one being an older sibling!
“God, is my turn coming soon? I want a turn; I’m tired of waiting and watching everyone else have the experience.”
“Oh my dear Elizabeth, this isn’t just about you. I AM good, my ways are good, this will be good, I promise.”
“But it doesn’t feel fair.”
“What wouldn’t be fair is if I denied your little Scout her chance to have you as her mother. I have made you to be her mom, and her to be your child. I have done the same for your friends with their kids. It wouldn’t be fair or good or in my nature to deny any of my children of my goodness.”
“Thanks for telling me that, but it’s still hard.”
“I know, but your turn is coming soon.”
“You keep saying that, but I think we have very different ideas of the word ‘soon’. Can you give me a clearer timeline?”
“Soon, my darling…soon.”
“Yea, yea, that’s what I thought…”