What’s your Plymouth Rock?
No, no, no, not a monument to some great achievement or discovery or to freedom itself … not a commemoration of escaping scurvy … not a pile of stones named after the Hebrew word for whatever happened there.
Let me explain.
In 2007 there was a great phenomenon known as Skybus, based right here in Columbus, Ohio. You could score plane tickets for as cheap as ten dollars – there were always a few seats available for ten dollars on every flight. The cheap seats went fast, of course, but a round trip for eighty or a hundred bucks was totally doable.
So we traveled.
Sadly I had to pass on the family trip to California. I had an industrial wastewater treatment system to startup. Don’t we all? I was in a work environment where requests to management for help prioritizing and leveling workloads were met with indifference. We were left to choose which one project to excel at and which ones to, well, suck at. A high profile environmental compliance project? I chose that one. And being the one with whom the buck stops, no time off for me at startup.
In late July I was able to get away. My sister and I hopped on Skybus to Springfield, Massachusetts. We checked out nearby Granville, from whence settlers of our hometown in Ohio originated. Snapping a few pics, stopping by the general store to experience the “original Granville cheddar”, and locating a combination ice cream shop / petting zoo constituted a full visit. There’s a lot more going on in the Ohio version, although we’re glad we went.
Onward to Cape Cod. We had rented a cottage there for a week. It was a short walk to a small, private neighborhood beach, and we explored cute towns in the area and searched for lighthouses when not becoming one with our little patch of sand.
Plymouth was not far away. You know, pilgrims, the Mayflower, 1620, the first Thanksgiving and all that. Plymouth Rock! We were going to see Plymouth Rock! Just like in the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon!
We weren’t sure what to expect. The AAA book told us where to find the boulder. It had been moved and divided up, and there’s not complete agreement on whether it was the actual original rock. Most likely the pilgrims didn’t even land at Plymouth, although it was the site of their first settlement.
Think of the Plymouth Rock you’ve seen in history books, cartoons, movies maybe. It should be stately, significant, and stunning, right?
There’s a structure and railing surrounding a pit that contains the rock … you look down over it.
Maybe I set my expectations low, I don’t know, but my sister was disappointed by the real Plymouth Rock.
|During the day shadows make it a little difficult to see.|
Adequate adjectives may not exist in any language to describe the level of my sister’s disappointment.
I still hear about it now and then.
|Oh hey, it’s William Bradford.|
A few weeks ago I lost a keyring bought in a gift shop in Plymouth. It wasn’t anything fancy or expensive, we just had matching keyrings with our names on them. When I suggested to my sister that we return so I could buy another one … for some reason she was not interested. Ha!
She relayed a recent story from someone who had hiked Hocking Hills with their family. The destination, the advertised reward for exerting themselves, was a waterfall. I have no idea how long the hike was, but at the end of the journey … expecting a beautiful view, the sound of rushing water, and maybe some mist … they found instead a trickle. A trickle.
It was their Plymouth Rock!
What is your Plymouth Rock?
I have expressed my apprehension about the holiday season and all the expectations put on us by ourselves and others. Especially on women, although men have their own similar challenges. We have to be the perfect bakers, candy makers, chefs, decorators, gift buyers, wrappers, organizers, hostesses with the mostestes. On top of which there are about three thousand special events per day to choose from the entire month of December … concerts, musicals, caroling, volunteer activities, zoolights, festivals, parades, and on and on and on …
What does all this have to do with the birth of Christ again?
I’m trying not to let modern day Christmas celebrations be my Plymouth Rock.
A friend confessed the other day to not being that excited about Christmas. I get it! This week my hands have been hurting from overuse and my broken toe has been letting me know I’m not staying off it and elevating it enough. And there’s much left to do.
Another friend confessed to being a little depressed this time of year. Normal winter / holiday melancholy it sounded like. We take on so much pressure to have the perfect life. The perfect job, perfect family, perfect house with a picket fence. And when we don’t, we feel like we have failed. Like it’s all our fault. We pray for something and when we don’t get the answer we want … we think maybe we didn’t pray correctly.
And too often there’s reinforcement for keeping disappointments to ourselves. In the church, in the polished world of social media, etc. Reinforcement from perfect public images and reinforcement from platitudes when we dare to express our feelings.
Oh you should be grateful for what you have. (Yeah I am, but …)
You’ll find someone when you least expect it, when you stop looking. (Yeah, but …)
Read the book of Job … how dare any of us be ungrateful. (Yeah, I’m not ungrateful, but …)
At least you have clean water and a roof over your head. (Yes, praise Jesus, but …)
It would be nice if we could share how we feel without being told we're wrong, smacked upside the head with a fix-it crew, and given Five Easy Steps to take care of "the problem". Sometimes pain and angst are meant to be felt and worked through, not erased.
There’s a tension between being content whatever the circumstances and yet not content at the same time. We live in a fallen world, so our expectations are going to be thwarted from time to time or maybe frequently even. But at the same time God places desires on our hearts and probably doesn’t expect us to sit still waiting for inertia to do something.
It’s okay and natural to be a little discontent and disappointed. If life on this planet is all happy happy joy joy all the time … what incentive is there ever to change anything? What incentive is there to rely on God for hope, transformation, and deliverance?
When you consider the cast of characters in the bible … people after God’s own heart, God’s chosen people, heroes of the faith … with the exception of one (or three depending how you look at it) … they were messed up. Some really messed up. Many depressed and melancholy in some way.
So tell me again why we expect complete and utter perfection from ourselves and from everyone and everything we encounter? Why do we run around like chickens with our heads cut off?
And why is it we’re so upset by our Plymouth Rocks?
Maybe we should cast those rocks into the sea.