SEVERAL WEEKS AGO, I attended a gender reveal party. For those of us, like me, who decided they would stop maturing at adolescence, a gender reveal party is when expectant parents gather their friends together and surprise these loved ones, and themselves, by revealing the gender of the child currently developing in the womb. Apparently, it’s a thing. Having spent a lifetime avoiding adult evolution like a germophobe does sneezes, it’s relatively novel to me.
Let me set the scene for you. We’re in the outdoor recreational area in the middle of an urban apartment complex. The sun, currently baking the American west with peak illumination and intensity, sits high in a cloudless sky above. Behind me is a pool surrounded by and filled with tanned and athletic young adults basking in the radiance of the sun, the vivacity of themselves, and refreshing cool, chlorinated water and cold adult beverages. In front of me stands a circle of eager people. In the center of this circle sits an aquarium filled with nothing but water. Also, in this circle, a young couple beams.
Slowly, everything goes still in that noisy outdoor recreational area. The young, beautiful people surrounding the pool, sunning themselves and discussing the finer points of being young and beautiful, have quieted. Their eyes move to the circle; they understand something is happening that they should be paying attention to.
The expectant couple stands near the aquarium. They are a husband and wife, a loving duo preparing for one of the biggest announcements they will ever hear. You can almost feel their anticipation. My own skin is crawling with gooseflesh. They drop two eggs into the aquarium. One of them will open, revealing either a stream of blue or pink, meaning either a boy (blue) or girl (pink). The water fizzles; it bubbles, as an egg opens. A colored stream appears.
IF YOU’RE BLESSED enough to live 85 years, that’s 44,676,000 minutes. How many of the millions of minutes provide the level of significance of that moment? Only few of the millions of minutes during a lifetime contain something so life-altering, soul-shaking, and earth-rattling. You likely can count them on one hand. Yet, imagine the amount of effort that went into making that one moment.
First two people had to meet. They had to decide they had a certain amount of affection for each other. Then a man had to complete a first date without spilling any of his dinner on his shirt, and a woman had to decide he was worthy of a second. Two people had to be diligent to grow closer to each other. They each had to work to open up even the deepest regions of themselves to the other. They each had to learn to grow selfless, to put the other’s interest before even their own.
A man had to purchase a ring, get down on one knee, and ask a question. A woman had to answer affirmative. They had to learn to laugh at each other’s jokes and be attentive when the other was hurting. Each had to work to understand that their own life no longer belonged to just him or her. Existence was now a shared enterprise.
They had to endure the tough times, the bitter fights, the long anxious nights when the checking balance was low and tempers were high. They had to discover the, often, difficult talent of throwing out pride and voicing those two words: “I’m sorry” as well as the equally challenging statement: “No, honey, you’re right.”
They had to learn to become each other’s best friend, to read each other as a devout priest does the Bible. They had to anticipate each other’s moods and surprise each other every once in a while with an unexpected gift. And, of course, they had to make a baby.
All of this doesn’t happen without an immense amount of work by each party involved. Either of them could have given up at any moment. They could have walked away and called it quits. And, yet, neither of them did. Each understood that the endeavor was worth the effort.
How much of our lives do we work for some goal we’ve established? We spend hours at the office in order to attain a bigger paycheck. We work to get better grades, so we can get into a better school, so we can have a better job, so we can have a more affluent life, and maybe score a country club membership, a sports car, or, for the lucky few, a yacht.
Some of us cram all of the possessions we can carry into a bag, leave everything behind we’ve ever known, and set out for a distant and foreign land in order to give our child a better life than the one we’ve known.
Life, in any form, takes work. It takes diligence. It takes setting a goal and then working tirelessly toward that objective. All of the obstacles, all of the setbacks, all of the pain, we push it aside and we keep moving forward. Giving up is not an option.
Often if feels like we climb halfway up a mountain only to stumble and slide back down it. Then we dust ourselves off and climb the first step again. It can feel like we’re not make progress, as if our dreams, these goals we’ve stupidly concocted will remain nothing more than that… unfulfilled desires.
And then something happens. Progress is made. A step is achieved. Then another one…and another one. Momentum starts building. Then a mountaintop is scaled. One can look back and see the advancement she’s made. Often, this process takes a lifetime. Is it worth it? I suppose the answer to that question is in the eye of the beholder.
It feels like we’re in control of this rollercoaster called life. If we just keep powering through, muscling our way toward our dreams, we will not be thwarted. That’s what the motivational speakers tell us: Don’t give up! We are in charge of our lives, alright, until we’re not.
I WAS PRESENTED with a choice. I could choose pink beads or blue beads. This is back at the gender reveal. It was a game the couple was playing with attendees. You got to pick a team. If you chose blue beads, you were hoping for a boy. Pink beads meant you were hoping for a girl.
For me the choice wasn’t hard. I grabbed a necklace of pink beads and draped it over my head and around my white dress shirt. It’s not that I’m against boys. I happen to be one, still, well into my thirties. I’m just close with the expectant father. He had shared to me his desire for a girl. I’m nothing if not loyal.
This doesn’t mean there was no one in the boy’s camp. The expectant mother had a necklace of blue draped around her white pinstripe dress. Her father wore the same, at least the necklace, not the dress. We spent much of the afternoon talking, the expectant mother’s father and I. He was a boisterous man with an outsized personality. He is the type of person I immediately grow fond of. He jokingly confessed to me that he already had too many females in his life. He also confessed to me, seriously, that regardless, boy or girl, his own wife’s first trip post-reveal was going to be to the shopping mall. Babies need things, both boys and girls. I had an inkling that the unborn child currently incubating in a womb, somewhere around the room of the party, was going to be alright.
Later, as all of us stood in that circle, donning our blue or pink beads, the tanning beautiful people sitting poolside as voyeurs to our current anxious revelry, we may have each had a certain hope about the outcome of the reveal. Yet that outcome was something that none of us could control.
IN A DIFFERENT LIFETIME, I was a television reporter in Casper, Wyoming. During that time, I had the absolute honor of telling the story of one young woman. Years earlier, she had suddenly fallen ill. Doctors discovered she had auto-immune hepatitis and would need a liver transplant. This young woman, merely a high-schooler, was at one time, quite literally, laying on her deathbed. She would, thankfully, survive after two liver transplants. I asked this young woman’s mother what it was like to contemplate the death of her oldest child. Her response is something I still carry with me a decade later: “I had to know that what I’m working for might not be what happens.”
We do everything we can to order our lives. We work hard, we create regiments, we plan our calendars, we go to the gym to knock off the cheeseburger we gluttonously consumed at lunch. We are creatures who yearn to believe that we are in control of the rollercoaster of life. At any moment of our choosing, we can slow the beast down, speed it up, or even change directions. In reality, that’s just not possible.
A cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one, the promotion at work we toiled tirelessly for and yet didn’t receive, these are things that are out of our hands. We cannot will away cancer, bring someone back, or compel a boss for a new opportunity. Life does not always present the diligent with treasure, nor the good a shield from evil. This is, I suppose, where faith makes its triumphant entrance.
There is a certain relief to believing in something greater than yourself. For someone who has, admittedly, made more mistakes than he has earned, it is comforting to know about grace, about faith. In every case, every time I’ve found myself at a point where I wanted to give up, when life seemed harder than it was worth, something has found me.
When I’ve seen my plans crushed, my dreams turn to ash, from that rose something greater: an unexpected opportunity, a new path to follow. When I’ve needed comfort, I’ve discovered it in a smile or the warm embrace of a friend. When, in the past, I’ve hit my knees, desperate for some result, cursing the maker’s silence and apathy, I now am able look back and bask in His wisdom, His design.
I’ve not always received what I’ve wanted. At least in my experience, however, I’ve always been given what I’ve needed. Every time I think I am in control of my life, God reminds me that I’m not. Then, He reminds me of His grace.
THERE ARE TWO EGGS fizzling in an aquarium. A young couple hovers over it anxiously waiting for a stream of color to appear. This couple is surrounded by eager friends and family. Oh, who am I kidding? My words will never do it justice. Just watch the video….
If you don’t see God in that moment, then I feel sorry for you. He’s there, and every once in a while, He provides us with a miracle so we will remember. In the end, a baby girl was not the only thing that was revealed on that momentous day.