My children apparently know how to play MASH.
I have no idea where they learned it, but it might be the funniest thing I’ve ever found them doing peacefully together.
Remember this game? You list 4 items in each category – people to marry, cars to drive, careers to pursue, and number of children to have. Draw a spiral until someone says stop, count the rings, and then use that number to tally through to narrow your selections down to the “winner” of each category. Finally, you tally down Mansion, Attic, Shack, or Hotel to decide on your house.
They both came up with neat job choices (race car driver, designer, chef) and number of children (1, 3, and 7 billion). The best part though is that they were selecting celebrities to write on their marry lists. But the only celebrity my 7 year old son knew was… Betty White. I laughed so hard I embarrassed him, had to apologize, and then suggested some of his favorite movie characters to add to the list. He seemed content with the possibility of marrying Cinderella.
I remember playing this game as a kid, and how fun it was to dream about what your life would look like when you were a grown up.
So what happens when life throws you all its monkey wrenches and veers you completely off course?
Release your inner control freak
I have control-freak tendencies for sure, but it’s mostly because I like to know what to expect. I like structure and consistency. So it’s definitely part of my personal growth experience to be yoked with “inner circle” people in my life who function in exactly the opposite manner. So I have learned to adapt to more flexible scheduling, slow my sense of urgency at times, and remember that just because I feel an irrational need for a deadline/timeline, it doesn’t mean everyone else needs to operate that way too.
I had my entire life mapped out at 18, from career, to family, to the kind of home we’d live in, to the day I died (at 94 years old, by the way). My own young adult MASH lineup.
Prosperity theology won’t cut it
Mostly I think I like order because it makes me feel like I’m “managing” my life well. It’s easy to buy into a prosperity theology that if I work hard enough and trust God enough, all my self-made plans of health and wealth and success will come to pass. (This is flawed faith and self-centered thinking.)
It’s easy to slip into this mentality because it honors my own desires first and essentially puts God’s plan for my life secondary. Basically, I get to be in charge of my own decisions. I get to trust myself to get myself exactly where I think I should be. And I get to tell God how and when and why to make it happen. Reflecting on the consequences of even just a few of my major life decisions just within the last 2 years, I am going to step out on a limb and say that I am not qualified to call those shots.
I am a good first-mate. I can follow directions and choose to be obedient even when it is hard. But when it comes to steering the ship? I need a captain much more competent than me.
Dreams in real life: make the right changes
Contrary to what my 4th grade MASH lineup may have indicated, I didn’t marry Jonathan Taylor Thomas and we don’t drive a limo, have 2 children, or live in a mansion.
Absolutely none of my life looks like what I thought it would. Ironic, for the girl who had it so clearly lined out. But I married an incredible man, our little family is anything but ordinary, and what we’re building together is our own version of happily ever after. What I thought I wanted and needed at 21 years old was such a limited vision.
We’re constantly growing, learning, changing, and becoming. I imagine I didn’t even have the skills or the character at that point in my life to understand what I was really supposed to do with my life. (maybe some people never do.)
Dreams in real life: look through the right lens
Even with all the “wisdom” life experience has thrown my way, I still don’t have much clearer vision. What I do know is that my youthful MASH dreams were all about me. My wishes, my vision, my needs, all through the lens of my short-sighted human desires. That can be exhausting. It puts all the pressure on me to determine the right path and be the person I think that path requires. No wonder it’s hard to feel authentic in this noisy world. So many of us are trying to be some version of ourselves other than exactly who we really are.
By contrast, God’s vision for my life is himself through me. What of His plan can I contribute with my small human hands and heart that will make a difference right where I am? The harder I try to make myself bigger, the more firmly He reminds me that’s not my job. Lessons in humility. Less of me and more of Him. When I live in His vision, he determines the path, leads me to and through it, and continues to shape me into the person He knows I am supposed to be. There is no guesswork required. Just stillness, listening, obedience, and faithful steps forward when it’s time. What a peaceful release of the pressure I have always placed on myself.
Dreams in real life: walk the right path
Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day. He asked nothing of them but their companionship and their obedience. That’s all He asks of us too. It seems so simple. Until my own ego and fallen human nature take over, which is pretty much all the time.
Dreams are real, and I do believe God plants the good ones in us. I want to put my heart and time into those good dreams. Dreams that make an impact for good for a purpose bigger than myself. Dreams that leave people better than I found them.
If I had to make my own grownup MASH, I think I’d list exactly what I have. Maybe a few silly extra things here and there, superficial wishes. But the big stuff I’ve already been given? This life, the people in my care, the causes for which I’m passionate, the “hats” I get to wear, the path it’s taken to get here… I never would have asked for any of this as a kid. It’s not at all what I dreamed for.
It’s so very much more.
A penny for your thoughts: take a moment to journal some of your dreams you had as a child, and dreams you still hold close in real life (even if they’re buried deep). What are ways those dreams came true, even if they look different than you imagined? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.