Having missed his target, he anticipates my throw, and runs ahead of the foam disk, eager to jump up and snag it in the middle of a flying leap. Unfortunately the direction I toss it in doesn’t always match his head start in this race. Sometimes he’s half-way to the lilac bushes when in fact my forward fling has gone slightly askew, and he is forced to search for his favoured find beyond the fire pit.
Shortly, the resulting hoped for moment occurs, and voila, Dusty captures his prize. Disk in mouth, he waits for me to venture close to him, but just as I draw near he mischievously runs in another direction. Eventually he tires, drops the coveted slimy circle and rolls over for a belly rub. I realize Dusty’s definition of “next time,” means he has happily conceded to a bit of loving after a good run with his floppy toy.
“Oh, maybe next time.”
That nagging word, “next” bothered me when I was growing up. As the younger of two sisters, 15 months apart, “next” became a worn out refrain.
“Maybe next year you will be tall enough to go on the roller coaster.”
“Maybe next year you can take piano lessons.”
“Maybe next year your hair will be longer to braid in pigtails.”
Why “next” always dragged along that qualifying maybe, I don’t know. It bothered me for many years and became a haunting phrase in my vocabulary.
So when it happened that my two sons were born 15 months apart, I paid attention to how often I used “next time” or “maybe next year” or “just wait, next time you’ll be able to do it,” especially when addressing my younger son.
However, the Easter when Don and Chris were only two and three, a simple revelation changed my entire perception. The three of us were sitting at the kitchen table waiting for a few hard-boiled eggs to cool before painting them. I began to read a story about the week Jesus experienced leading up to his resurrection. My tone of voice and sadness as I explained the crucifixion moved each of them to crawl into my lap as I continued with the unfolding events.
After a bit of pushing and shoving they settled down, looking at the pictures as I read. Finally we reached the part where the stone had been rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. I paused so they could see the huge hole in the side of the rock.
“He’s not there. What do you think happened to Jesus?” I asked.
At this point, little Chris had stood up on my legs in an effort to hug me tighter around my neck. From his new vantage point he spied something that his brother had yet to see. I had my finger tucked into the book, waiting to flip forward for the finale, creating a gap that gave Chris a sneak preview.
All of a sudden Christopher’s face lit up and he pointed. I barely had a chance to ask again,
“Where do you think Jesus is?”
Chris happily shouted, “He’s on the next page.”
From then on, I looked forward to thinking about the “maybe next times” or the “next year whens” or the “it will be your turn next.” I didn’t dwell on the frustrating way that “next” sometimes sounded like a call to doom as when the nurse holds up the vaccination needle loudly honing in on her “next” patient. Instead, it became this glorious word that represented hope, and opportunity. I would picture Jesus, hear Christopher’s excited shout, and hold that thought close to my heart, “He’s on the next page.”
Yes, “next” is a simple word I say over and over again throughout my day, one that has a beautiful meaning for me. I challenge you: how often do you qualify your moments with a “next time,” or “maybe next week,” “next month,” “next year?” I often say the phrase, “Oh maybe next time,” since it comes forth from habit, from many memories over many years. But it no longer pulls me backwards with frustration; I let it brighten my outlook as if it always holds a brand new discovery.
This morning Dusty reminded me to be constantly ready for my “next times” whether I’ve got a head start or I need to change my direction. He showed me how easy it is to admit when I’ve dashed off on a crazy chase, and how wonderful it feels to submit to some reassuring love.
So as Easter enters into another year, I wanted to share my prayers by simply tossing “the next page idea” to all of you.
Dusty and I look forward to continuing our walk with you, page by page.