Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 (NKJV)
I’ve often lived in a state of deferred hope.
The first, most obvious, time was back in 1988 when I moved 1,100 miles from all that I loved and knew (my friends and my boyfriend!) to begin a new chapter of life. I felt pretty hopeless and quite sick of heart during that season and clung to this verse for hope that one day all would be well.
Desire would come, and with it, a tree of life.
My greatest desire was to marry that boy that I loved so much, That day was deferred for over four years, but it became my anchor. It was the thing to cling to when all else felt lost.
It was going to be my tree of life.
I spent much time over those four years sick at heart. Alone, hurting, pining away, struggling through, creating a fantasy of what my tree of life would look like. It finally came to me in 1992.
That tree of life didn’t look like what I thought it would.
I became good at deferring hope. Or maybe I just became good at giving up hope.
Days grew long and life rolled by as I waited for my tree of life to blossom and flourish. It had to be on its way. . .right?
What hope was I deferring?
What desire was I waiting for?
What would a tree of life even look like?
It was a long, lonely time before I realized that tree of life moments were there waiting to be noticed.
I experienced a tree of life moment the other day.
My husband and sons were away for the day on a hike. The girls and I were at home together. I decided that it might be fun to have a girls’ outing and get lunch at Chick-fil-A followed by a trip to the mall.
This was a big deal for a mama, who doesn’t do fun well with her kids. I have had the desire to do outings and activities, but times out always become overwhelming and disappointing.
The girls were excited when I told them the plan and prepared them for the fact that only the ones with remaining birthday money could buy something. The one without money responded maturely with understanding.
We went to lunch first. Each girl ordered her food, then the three of them went to a booth together and sat to wait for me to bring over our tray. As I walked to the table with food in hand, two mama friends walked in with their littles.
I watched them choose their booth by the playroom window for ease of supervising children. I watched them locate a high chair and tape down place mats and sort food. I watched them corral littles in the booth while snatching snippets of conversation.
I remember those days! I remember going out with friends and wrangling littles and wishing that I could just sit and have a conversation without having to nurse or hand out snacks or chase toddlers or inhale my own food.
There I was, at a table with my three littlest, enjoying intelligent conversation.
My deferred hope had resulted in a desire coming there right before my eyes! I witnessed and named a tree of life moment as no one fought or spilled something or needed their diaper changed! We even had a “who can smile the biggest” selfie-taking contest. It ended in a three-way tie, of course! Mom could have smiled bigger had she opened her mouth.
I’m curious about and pondering that tree of life. It holds great meaning for me in other ways, as well, and I hope to explore further my draw to it. For now, it has given me new words to name what I have often overlooked.
I am grateful.