"If you build it, he will come." So says The Voice to Ray Kinsella (aka Kevin Costner) in the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams. In a nutshell, the plot of this movie is as follows: Ray buys a farm; Ray hears a voice telling him to bulldoze his cornfield and build a baseball field so that Shoeless Joe Jackson can come and play; Ray does so. And, of course, drama and profundity ensue. But in my mind, the first part of this movie is the most miraculous... or at least as miraculous as long-dead baseball players returning to play in a cornfield in Iowa. In the beginning, Ray builds the field. He builds it without guarantees and even without resources. We can assume that he is driven by a certain idealism and certainly a love of baseball. But mainly he is driven by The Voice itself -- unrelenting and unchanging, though also unclear. It doesn't provide him with details or instructions or even clearly defined reasons. It simply calls him. And it does so repeatedly.
I like to think that this is a movie about hope. Ray acts hopefully, not fully even knowing what he is headed toward. His hopeful acts defy reason and invite ridicule, as hopeful acts so often do. As a single woman in my thirties, I can relate to Ray on a number of levels. I find myself still in the prime of my life, yet becoming each day more painfully aware of my lack of control over my own circumstances. I have, for many years now, wanted a family of my own. I say that without dramatic language because I am not one of those girls who plans my wedding on a first date or imagines what my children would look like with that guy across the room. I don't believe in soul mates or love at first sight and I don't think that I need a man to "complete me." But I still want a family. I want a man by my side, supporting and challenging me. And I want kids. God, do I want kids. All through my twenties, those desires were vague, lacking urgency. They were exciting eventualities, but nothing that had to happen on a timetable. But then I turned 30. And then 31. And then 32. With each passing year, the urgency rose and the hope waned. It's a tale as old as time right? I am far from the first woman to long with all my heart for a family only to find myself alone year after year.
But this year I heard The Voice (and since I have cast myself as Ray Kinsella in this narrative, my analogy is helped if you think I'm crazy right now -- thank you). Without going into too much detail, I have come to believe that I will one day be given a family of my own. Like Ray, I have no idea what the end result will look like or even what needs to happen between now and then. But I am full of a hope that has been absent for the last several years. This new mindset is both fantastic and terrifying. This is hope as yet unfulfilled, meaning that the potential for ridicule is ever-present (and exponentially greater as I discuss my story publicly). Not to mention it spurs me to action (as real hope inevitably does). If I choose to believe the words of The Voice, then I cannot stand idly by without doing my part. Ray bulldozed his corn. I went to a nutritionist.
The female body is a mysterious thing. And as a female, I can add my crazy body to the list of life circumstances that are largely out of my control. But there are steps that I can take -- small changes -- that could at least give me more of a fighting chance to be a mother in my mid to late thirties. So I have chosen in 2016 to make some changes in my lifestyle. I have stopped eating fast food. And anyone who has seen the piles of fast food bags in my car during the last ten years or so understands the caliber of change we're talking about here. I began meeting with a nutritionist who helped me determine a healthy dietary plan for my body and my activity level. I have been shopping and chopping and cooking and freezing and packing all sorts of food for my long days at the office and let me tell you... it has been a LOT of work! It may not seem like much compared to Ray's dramatic bulldozing of the corn and building of the field against all odds but let me tell you -- there is some serious apprehension wrapped up in any work done in the service of unfulfilled hope. With every salad I substitute for my normal run to Chick-fil-A; with every morning breakfast that I used to skip altogether; with every hour spent cooking that could have been saved by a call to the Chinese restaurant on the corner, my awareness of potential disappointment, shame, and ridicule mounts. And I am left with a choice: abandon hope and return to life as usual... or live for God knows how long with a question mark over my curious life choices, waiting hopefully for the fulfillment of a vague promise.
And here's the rub: I know that I must somehow continue down this hopeful path without falling into some victim mindset that I am thereby earning an eventual reward. Somehow I must keep entitlement out of the equation. This is, unfortunately, probably impossible. One of the most human moments in Field of Dreams is Ray saying to Shoeless Joe Jackson, "I did it all. I listened to the voices, I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what's in it for me." Jackson replies, "What are you saying Ray?" And his honest response: "I'm saying, what's in it for me?" I want the reward, yes. I would love to say, "Okay I've done all these things. I have taken care of my body and done everything in my power to prepare for a family. So WHERE IS IT?" But the truth is that there is something better in this whole scenario than the reward. And I think it is illustrated beautifully in Field of Dreams. The best, most noble part of this movie is not the ultimate reward (which does come in a totally unexpected form). It is The Voice. The Voice was the planner, the encourager, the all-knowing orchestrator of the whole beautiful mess that makes up that crazy movie. And more than anything right now, I want to better understand The Voice that I have heard in my own life. I want to understand what it has in store for me, why it is good, and how it can shield me from the shame of disappointment. On a good day, I want that more than I want a specific reward. And on a good day, I believe that The Voice will not disappoint me even if the ultimate outcome of my story is a big surprise.
I'm not much for cryptic messages. I think that hope is a pretty universal concept and so, up to this point, I have chosen to write about it in generic terms. But you can easily read my bio to find out that I am a Christian. And so, though my Voice was far from an audible Voice of God experience, I certainly believe that I heard from the God of the Bible, the God of faith, hope, and love. And I am choosing to write about this in the middle of my story -- in the midst of hope unfulfilled -- because such is life. We live in a state of tension, constantly setting our sites on the next destination. Such is life, I assume, in all walks of life, but certainly Christian life. We live hopefully, or we try to do so. But that is not for lack of pain, impatience, fear, and shame. For today, I choose hope. Ask me how I'm doing in a year and I will answer you honestly. But a couple of things I know for certain -- The Voice will not change... and it won't shut up. At least it hasn't yet. And that is, if nothing else, a phenomenon warranting further investigation. This story is to be continued...