When it comes to Christmas movies, Steve loves It’s a Wonderful Life. Me? I prefer my childhood favorites… Charlie Brown, Rudolph, The Grinch. And a dose of feel-good Hallmark movies too.
Watching It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve became a tradition for us when we got married, though that tradition has fallen off a bit in recent years since Natalie was born. Tired parents prepping for Christmas morning and everything.
As I drove home from the hospital one afternoon this week I found myself thinking about the movie and our differing opinions about it.
Steve loves the way George Bailey’s life impacted others… that despite the hardships he faced and unbeknownst to him, he means so much to his family, friends and community. While I’ll admit to tearing up at the ending scenes myself (with everyone stepping in to help the Bailey’s and the little bell ringing when Clarence gets his wings) I always struggled with all the thwarted plans and unfulfilled dreams in George’s life.
I’ve joked with Steve before that our differing opinions of It’s a Wonderful Life reflect our differing approaches to real life, but as I thought more about the movie I realized how very true that is for me.
The struggle I have with the hardships George Bailey endures mirrors the struggle I have when it comes to hardships of my own.
Even before Steve and I were married we talked about our hopes for our future family. We imagined ourselves with three or four kids. Steve even mentioned five but I made no promises there! We both thought it would be great to have a mix of boys and girls, though I especially pictured two girls close in age, so they could know the joy of growing up with a sister and best friend like I did.
Our dreams for our family certainly didn’t include a baby who died the day she was born or a baby with a complex heart defect who would have open heart surgery at two weeks old.
While I try not to dwell on what “could have been”, it’s difficult for me to completely put aside the life I envisioned. I’ve found that even the smallest things can trigger a thought or cause a picture to come to mind of how life would be if things were different.
Baking cookies with Natalie while Hope naps. Cuddling together – all four of us – on the couch by the tree reading Christmas stories. Nursing Hope late at night with one of those Hallmark movies in the background.
Not driving back and forth to the hospital. Not learning how to use a feeding tube, or perform CPR on an infant, or check oxygen saturation levels. Not thinking about the next surgery or the one after that or the multiple unknowns that extend before us for our baby girl.
And honestly, it’s really hard for me. I see these thwarted plans and unfulfilled dreams in my life much as I see those of George Bailey’s life – with disappointment, sorrow, and even anger.
I fully believe that God uses all things to our good and His glory. I’ve known Him long enough to trust who He is and to accept that His ways are not mine. But lately I’ve found that trusting and believing and accepting doesn’t take away my human emotion.
I trust in Him, yet still feel disappointed. I accept that He has a plan, yet still feel sad and angry that the path I imagined has veered down a road I wouldn’t have chosen. I believe He is in control, yet still feel afraid of the outcome.
I wish I could say that after praying over all these emotions I felt an overwhelming peace and comfort, but that would be dishonest. I’m still wrestling with this, still struggling with the balance of what I know and believe about God and what I feel in the here and now.
It would be nice if I could wrap this up in the style of Clarence the angel; showing how even the thwarted plans and unfulfilled dreams had meaning and purpose and putting all the pieces together to prove that it really was a wonderful life.
But I can’t…. nor do I think it’s my place to see things from that perspective, even if I wish I could.
So I’ll do my best to take things a day at a time, clinging to what I know about God even when my emotions don’t match up. And I’ll humbly ask for your continued prayers for sweet Hope and for us as we continue on this journey. Thank you so much for faithfully lifting us up before the Father thus far!
PS If you don’t know who George Bailey and Clarence are then you should watch It’s a Wonderful Life… just don’t start it while trying to wrap Christmas gifts late at night on Christmas Eve!