This little glass frog dates from my temping days. 2008, probably. I was working at the hospital, and most weeks there’d be an interesting stall in the main corridor, selling various fripperies. Make-up. Russian dolls. Little glass trinkets.
2008 was a miserable year. There were two major bereavements. I had no idea what I was meant to be doing with my life. And there really wasn’t much money to spare. Things were certainly tight enough that I felt guilty about buying things I didn’t strictly need. Like glass frogs. Having read back through some of my diaries from that time, and horrified myself in the process, I think I was probably quite severely depressed.
Two good things happened, however. I joined the choir at Holy Trinity, Guildford. And – in a lucid moment when we’d got out of Guildford for a weekend and got some perspective – I asked my boyfriend to marry me.
He said yes, and of course that resulted in all the excitement and stress of planning a wedding, which I’m not sure I’d do ever again even if I hadn’t developed reservations about the entire institution in the meantime. (However, it worked out for us, so that question hasn’t arisen.) It also resulted in our being given a little book of marriage preparation, addressing various topics like families and money and sex and children. And dreams. Hopes for the future, that sort of dream.
I could not deal with that section at all. I did not have any dreams. I could not imagine what my future might be. I didn’t know what I wanted, or, if I did, I certainly couldn’t say it.
So we left it.
Well, that’s over a decade ago now, and I’ve spent a lot of that decade getting my head into a much better place. I have begun to get my head around the idea that it might be OK for me to want things.
So what do you want me to do?
Answer came there none. So I just got on with things, the way I did in 2008 but feeling much better about all of it, because this time we’d parted on much better terms.
A couple of months ago, looking at the gospel for the coming Sunday, somewhere in the teens after Trinity, it hit me. The story was Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, sitting at the side of the road, yelling for Jesus to help him.
Who asks him:
What do you want me to do for you?
And I realised then that the reason I wasn’t getting an answer to that question was that this question was being asked of me. I’d been looking at things completely the wrong way round. I’d done the obedience thing. I’d followed it all the way to the end of the road. Now I needed to take responsibility, to ask for what I want. To know what I want.
I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Because at that moment I really didn’t know.
Do I know what I want? I think I do – now. I’m still finding it very difficult to get my head around the idea. There are two possible bad outcomes, of course. What if I want it and I don’t get it? And what if I want it and I get it and it turns out to be awful and it’s all my fault?
But of course it would be even more tragic if I never let myself want it and never even tried. Wouldn’t it?
I’m beginning to see the first glimmerings of it, to understand that what I want might in fact be a clue to what’s wanted of me, that my desires and wishes might be a more reliable guide than I’ve previously thought. Well, that’s something for this next year.
Which is all a long way away from a little glass frog. What do you do with a little glass frog? Eventually I wrapped some wire around it and turned it – together with a couple of its colleagues – into a Christmas tree decoration. Why not?