How to Turn 26.


The way I see it, I think I have a couple options about how to approach this birthday: I could be sent (stomping) to time-out…or I could choose to build a fort.

I think I’m allowed to feel frustrated. This past Sunday, I saw Dr. Jeremy Begbie’s lecture entitled “The Sound of Hope.” Actually, saw is the wrong word. I devoured it—every single beautiful and suffering note.

What can music teach us about the Gospel? We learn about the patterns of tension leading to this deeply desired and expected resolution. We wait at the black & white keys until the notes dance to a resolution. “Living in hope means living in the overlap,” Dr. Begbie said.

But sometimes we haven’t reached the resolution yet. We are still dwelling in the building tension. Look at the lingering darkness in the last notes of Psalm 88:

You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.” – Psalm 88:18

There is a place for frustration, sorrow, and grief. That’s where we are living in the overlap, living in the hope of what’s been promised with tastes of our glorious future. The last note isn’t meant to be sugarcoated. There’s no pill to pop to reach a happy place. This is the place for crying out—this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

However, I don’t know about you, but when I was sent to time-out as a child, it usually wasn’t for a radical and righteous and holy reason like a psalmist suffering the wrath of a hidden God. It was usually just because I knew what I wanted and exactly when I wanted it, and things just didn’t go my way.

I flipped tables and yelled and scattered everyone and everything because I didn’t get my way.

I stomped up the stairs, pounding on every single step harder and harder, and then I slammed my door. But I wasn’t fighting for a righteous way of the world, the right order of our good, good Father. I was stomping for my own way of the world.

If we’re being totally honest, I was usually flipping tables and stomping because someone else got something that I wanted.

It had nothing to do with discontentment for how others were treated in the world and everything to do with my selfish desires.

“Go to your room!” they would point up the stairs. They had a wooden spoon. They would chase me up the stairs if I didn’t stomp on my own.

“Go up there and think about what you’ve done,” they said. “You will not be coming out until you get yourself together and accept that this is the way it’s going to be.”

No. Those were the deadly two letters. No, you can’t go to the birthday party. No, you can’t have a new Power Ranger doll. No, it’s not fair. No, it’s not time for that. No, you can’t always have what you want, whenever you want it.

I know that she got a pony. But you cannot have a pony. I know that she’s allowed to go. But you are not allowed to go. No matter what you cry or how loud you stomp, you cannot do what she’s doing.

I’m very sorry.

You can stay up there and yell as loud as you want and throw anything to shatter your mirror, but that’s still not going to change the outcome.

You can come downstairs once you’ve calmed down. Whenever you can catch your breath and stop hyperventilating and wipe the snot on your sleeve, then you can come out. You’re allowed to cry and be frustrated, but then you need to get yourself together and accept that this is the way it’s going to be.

It’s for your own good. I know you don’t see it now, but I know what’s best for you, sweet daughter.

He’s a good, good Father.

{{We have a choice to make, Ashley, about how we will see this birthday.}}

So, there’s this other option. I could build a fort.

I have this new friend who started a tradition. During breaks from grad school, he sleeps on the pull-out sofa and just stays up late reading books. A fun sleepover to keep him sane.

What if I blew out my 26 candles and whispered, “I wish to build a fort”?

What if my wish was simple: I want sheets and pillows and flashlights and Shel Silverstein poems. I don’t want the sidewalk to end.

I want to splash in the water during bath time and decorate myself with bubbles. I want lightening bugs to light up the dark night. I want to be trapped in an RV in a trunk in the back room for more than an hour while they look for us in flashlight tag. I want to whisper, “Shh! Stop laughing! They might hear you!” I want my tongue to be purple from too many icy pops. I want to make lots of muddy footprints after scurrying across the freshly mopped floor. I want to watch my marshmallow fall into the fire after it turns a bubbly shade of brown before oozing off the stick. I want to collect shells on the beach as the waves move closer and closer to my sandy toes. I want to draw hop scotch with rainbow sidewalk chalk on the driveway and watch it wash away in the thunderstorm.

I want my mom to comfort me and say, “Don’t be afraid of the thunder. It’s just your grandma bowling in heaven.”

But the sidewalk ended and I don’t know my way back.

They told me there would be a place where the sidewalk would end, before the street begins. The dark street that winds and bends.

So I’ve walked with a walk that is measured and slow, to the place where the sidewalk ends.

I must find a way out of time-out. Measured and slow, I will open the door. I’ve caught my breath, now dry my tears. Pouting time is over. This is the way it is—whether you like it or not.

Like Dr. Begbie reminded us, we fall into the trap that there are only two options: order and disorder. What about when I can’t reach this perfect order in my world, in the entire world? Sometimes my apartment is a mess, my to-do list gets ignored, and my timeline of expectations needs to be crumpled and thrown in the trash, maybe even burned. This disorder feels bad, oh so bad, and nothing like the sidewalk I followed for so many years.

So what about the third option: non-order?

If I choose to build a fort, this is the laughter and the loose ends that will teach me a new way of non-order. They stopped holding my hand and the sidewalk ended, but there must be a new way to not meander alone on this dark street that winds and bends.

He knows just what we need when the sidewalk ends.

He knows what’s best. He’s a good, good Father. I’m loved by Him. It’s who I am.

With a tender whisper, he will tuck me in tonight, and every night in my 26th year. This is the perfect answer we’ve been searching for.

make me childlike

One response to “How to Turn 26.”

  1. Beautiful.

    Thank you 🙂

    Good Luck!

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