There was a small grove of trees about 1/4 mile from the farmhouse I grew up in. It was the original site of the first home my forefathers built when they homesteaded the property in eastern Nebraska. One day after school, a friend and I decided to ride our bikes to the grove to pick gooseberries and look around for anything interesting, like old dishes or other relics of yesteryear. We were suddenly stopped in our tracks by the sight of an animal lying on the ground. It was mean and scary looking, and my friend said she was sure it looked like a picture she had seen of an animal that jumped out of trees and killed people. Well, we dropped our gooseberry-picking sacks and pedaled like crazy back to the farm house, looking upward at the tree branches all the while. After trying to explain what we had seen to my mother, she loaded us into the car and drove back to the grove to investigate. Wouldn’t you know it? The creepy critter was gone! Of course, now in my adult visual memory, I realize it was an opossum playing – well – possum. Imagine the story he told his little possum-lets that night about how he scared two big girls just by doing nothing.
Let’s face it. Sometimes things just are not what they seem to be. Feelings and imagination can inflate something way out of proportion sometimes making it seem like an unsolvable problem. That’s how I viewed being single for too long a time. When I was in my 20s and 30s, questions that friends and family asked often were ones such as “How’s your love life?” “When are you getting married?” “Why are you not married yet?” No one wanted to figure out answers to those questions more than I! And, of course, I added another crazy-making question: “What’s the matter with me?” ‘Opossum’ questions with no good answers.
Career-wise, I felt quite fulfilled. Teaching freshman music theory and piano on a university campus and accompanying and playing solo recitals was very satisfying. But, there was always that thought that it would be ever so much better with a husband, especially one who was also a pianist with whom I could pair up for piano duo recitals. Then, one day, the career dream came to a crashing halt. A growing promise of achieving tenure suddenly dissolved, and no amount of asking questions brought answers. All I could do was stare at a dream clothed in a lifeless ‘opossum’ suit.
Friends tried to be encouraging. “You’re young; I know you’ll find another college teaching position real soon.” And, “You’re young; I just know you’ll find a loving husband.” Or, the opposite, “Have you ever thought that maybe you have the gift of singleness?” Or, “Marriage is your idol and God won’t answer your desire until you give up your hopes for marriage.” (That last always seemed to come from someone who was married. My bolder older self now would ask, “Is that what you did before you got married?”) Anyway – more thoughts born out of dying dreams which brought great pain and grief. None of these ‘opossum ‘ comments spoke to the deepest part of my heart.
I hungered for God to speak to me personally and began camping out with the Psalmists who were transparent in their prayers, unafraid to express exuberant joy and gut-wrenching sorrow, deep contentment and burning anger. Verses which spoke into the core of my soul were those like Psalm 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.**
I admit that all my waiting was not patient, and it was a loooooooong time before contentment replaced frustration – most days anyway. Do I still hope for a Godly marriage? Absolutely! Do I hold a baby with a twinge of wondering how I would have been as a mother? Definitely! Do I long for a like-minded companion at the end of the day when it would be nice to sort of debrief? Unquestionably! Would I like someone to have deep conversations with without having to make an appointment? Certainly!
Meanwhile, I’m learning more about the love of God which is meant to free us to live an abundant life when we remain in Him! (John 17)
So, what ‘opossum’ moments have you experienced and what fully alive moments have blessed your life?
**New Living Translation