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May 22, 2017

Waiting on Unicorns

As my sixteenth birthday was drawing near, I was on the hunt for a car. A very specific car, actually, and when I found one I brought it to my parents with weighted anticipation, sure that this was “the one.” It was an all-white Ford Bronco.

I had watched the O.J. Simpson saga unfold several years prior, and I was clever enough to make the connection, yet wise enough to cast aside petty fears of association. I had found my unicorn.

My parents pursued the purchase while I followed behind with the persistence of a child with her ear pressed against a wall, straining to hear juicy stories wafting from the other side. The sale fell through and I was crushed. I remember crying to my mom, saying things like, “That was the perfect car,” “I’ll never find another one like it,” and “I’ll never have my own car.”

I don’t recall being a very dramatic child. I must have been a quick learner, though. Waiting brought out the worst in me as I struggled to grasp at straws that weren’t there because they weren’t meant to be. The white Bronco was never mine. All the hoping and dreaming in the world didn’t make it so, and at the end of the day someone else had a unicorn to love and pamper while I sat empty-handed.

***

“Mommy I want to go see animals right now.”

“Right now” seems to follow all of my daughters’ requests, especially subsequent ones following my very firm “no,” or “not right now.” The “not” in front of “right now” somehow loses its way between my lips and her little ears.

It’s a hard concept to learn. In our conversations, I dangle sparkling ideas and treats before her as we discuss coming events, outings, and special rewards. She is then expected to keep those in her mind’s eye and out of her little grip for a specified length of time. Time is her unicorn, though, and she vacillates between excitement and despair as the little cogs and wheels turn in her brain, struggling to figure out what “tomorrow” means and why we still haven’t arrived at the zoo.

Another word she is learning is “patience.” This is so hard for me to teach her – not because I haven’t mastered the technique (though I haven’t), but because whenever I try to explain it, I cannot wrap it up in a bow. It’s “waiting well.” For how long? I don’t know. For what? Sometimes I don’t know that either. Will it pay off? 

***

My first car was a black and tan 1990 Ford Bronco. It was outfitted with oversized, off-road B F Goodrich tires, dual exhaust, and a grill guard (my husband tells me these details are important). Just what I needed in the bustling metropolis of Houston, Texas.

Needs are not nearly as fun as wants, and definitely not fun to wait for. When I finally held the precious keys in my eager hands, I remember my mom looked at me and said, “See? God provided something even better than that white Bronco. You just had to be patient and wait on His timing.”

It was a better car. I knew that. It wasn’t the one I had found, though, and the rejection stung. But here was my baby, and the wispy white tail disappeared in the woods along with my humility – the lesson almost learned, but quickly forgotten.

***

Whenever I take a spiritual gifts inventory or “test,” my strongest trait is always faith. Faith is, according to Merriam-Webster, strong belief or trust. I haven’t felt betrayed by these results until I’ve had to wait, and I see that my faith has been small, not strong.

“Waiting well” happens when we do just that, wait well. I’ve waited for very short periods of time, and a reward has always greeted me either when I’ve fully surrendered or just started feeling discouraged. That’s the formula, isn’t it? If I can just surrender my longing to God, He will jump out from behind the tree with exactly what my heart desires extended towards me like a leprechaun’s pot of gold.

I’ve been waiting for unicorns all my life, and sewing a patch on the gaping hole of my desire with the next best thing that walks into my view.

In a world where unicorns don’t exist, waiting well means waiting for the gift-giver, not the gift. As anticipation builds, it’s harder and harder to just “be ok” with the things revealed. I keep peeking around the corner for even a glimpse, and yet my heart knows that the glimpses I see are just smoke and mirrors of what could be, of the beauty that will be.

On this side of Heaven, I’ll just have to keep waiting.

 

 

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