Plunged through the Great Smokey Mountains and bursting into the winter of North Carolina, the windshield of my dear, scuffed Mitsubishi suddenly framed the gleam of a shooting star. Slow and white, it highlighted the sky. I, a city girl unused to seeing stars of any sort, scrambled for a wish to lob into the air. My mind groped around dusty compartments where it had stored old hopes. Deep in one corner was a wadded up wish for romance; in another I’d stowed a long-discarded dream of a doctorate.
Filtering through everything in that moment while the particle of the heavens sliced apart the darkness around earth, I figured out that the old hopes no longer fit who I am. Like with high school clothes in my parent’s garage, I outgrew the old wishes I’d tucked away.
I’ve taken two steps. With one foot, I’ve stepped from one circle of wishers to another. Next time I see a shooting star, I’ll wish for some standard things, like an understanding of what God wants me to do with my life and an end to violence and atrocities in the world. With the other foot, I’ve stepped out into the new terrain of individual, unpredictable wishes. No one else has this wish list.
Next time I see a shooting star, I’ll wish I knew enough about cars to tell if the mechanic is trying to cheat me. Or I’ll wish my dishes washed themselves. Or that allergies were as easy to treat in reality as they are on TV. Or I’ll wish grammar wasn’t used as a weapon to make people feel bad about themselves. Or, I may wish long-whiskered kittens never became stand-offish cats.
I’m not superstitious. The shooting star doesn’t grant me any wishes, I know; it’s a gem of matter gloriously and beautifully igniting in Earth’s atmosphere, but it isn’t magic. Still, it did give me a moment of pause, a sudden re-evaluation of my desires. Far more than talking to burning space chunks, prayer probably ought to create that space for self-knowledge, an arena in which your desires can become clear and apparent. I guess I’m hesitant about telling God the random hopes that grow in quirks from my personality, since He has the capacity to make them real. Telling the stars that I wish kittens stayed kittens seems less presumptuous than telling God. But, I wonder what re-evaluation I’d foster by striking up such a conversation in prayer. I guess I’ll find out.