It first hit me when I was at a good friend’s house, lounging on a waterbed, finally watching How to Train Your Dragon. Though I could not (and still cannot) stand the abundance of Scottish accents in a group of Scandinavian Vikings, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the beautiful artistry of the film. And it sparked a series of thoughts.
You see, I struggle with dragons. Dragons of all shapes and colors and sizes. Small, serpentine dragons that fly close to the ground. Ginormous mountainous dragons with eyes the size of elephants. Dragons that look like Barney and dragons that resemble Mushu.
OK, now that I have you absolutely confused, let me explain.
Having grown up overseas (4 years in England, 4 years in Norway), I experienced the hardships of moving. Not only my moving, but my friends and classmates, neighbors and family. I was fortunate not to be an Army brat and have to move every 6 months, although I think that might have helped me get more used to the process. As it was, I would spend a year or two getting settled in a new place, a year making friends, and a year finally to consider the place home. And then we would move.
England is one of my dragons. Norway is one of my dragons.
I had the pleasure of dwelling near these beautiful beasts for a few years, but when the time came, they alighted to sky and left me longing for just one more minute to be in their company.
In 8th grade, I started to build a list of things I wanted to do—from the easy task of reading a particular book to the near-impossible goal of hosting a party at my house. That was a tough year. And that list represented the Evan I hoped to be, the Evan who didn’t care what people thought, who was active and enthusiastic and successful. Every once and a while I merged with this Evan, but only for a passing second. He was a shadow of the 5th grade Evan (comfortable and accomplished in Norway), the 7th grade Evan (free and fun and surrounded by friends), and the future Evan (the high schooler, college student, adult, who was happy with his life). Each little item on that list that I didn’t check off shouted at me with the words “You’ll never catch me!”
Those Evan conceptions are dragons as well, ghostlike and formless. Those items on my list are little dragons that swelled to frightening sizes whenever they wanted to remind me of my insecurity.
I have tried to grasp at those Evans, but they have been gone for a long time, and they aren’t coming back. They don’t belong here—they have their own home.
I was crafty and constructed nets to catch those little dragon pests, finding loopholes and simplifying expectations just to place a check on a piece of paper, a check that brought me so much empty satisfaction.
Throughout high school, and college as well, I tried to find younger people that I could influence, lead them further in their faith, help them find their strengths. At school, at church, at camp, I found plenty of little brothers and sisters. Younger siblings I never had I found elsewhere. I taught, I mentored, I served, and I saw God at work all around me. But just as the God I serve is always on the move, I found my siblings coming and going. I was able to grow with and bond with a certain few, but the multitudes moved along.
These dragons were small and young at one point, and many allowed me to help them, teach them to fly, show them the land. But because of my effort, or the efforts of others, they grew remarkably fast and left without a word, traveling across the heavens with the grace of God. Some stayed longer, and I enjoyed their fellowship, but eventually all dragons must fly away.
In my last year at college, I fell into depression. I holed myself away in a dark apartment filled with distractions like the glow of the TV and the comfort of junk food. I would go a full day without saying a single word to someone else. I would sleep for hours at a time, seeking the joys of my dreams, relaxing in the safety of my bed. Eventually, I emerged from my death, thanks to the love of certain family and friends. But once I stepped back out into the daylight, I discovered that many of my friends had disappeared. Well, they were still there—but after a few months of separation, our friendships had fizzled away.
I crept back out of my cave, eager to see if any dragons were still around to welcome me back to the real world. I searched high and low, far and near, and discovered that in my unnatural hibernation, most had migrated to find a better place to live. I had a few dear dragons to keep me sane, but I mourned the loss of some of unique dragons— one who soared through the air searching for the weak, stepping in to save the day; another who burrowed deep into the earth, recovering gorgeous gems and minerals and bringing them out into the light of day; one who had dwelt with me for years, but now had disappeared without a trace.
This is not supposed to be a lamentation, a pity party, a sad song—but too often it is. Dreams and friends, brothers and sisters, ideas and goals, hopes and plans—too often they fly away like the dragons they are, too often too soon. That’s just the way it is. You can’t stop it—you can only enjoy your dragons while you have them. In the movie How to Train Your Dragon, the story ends with the Vikings and the Dragons living together in peace and harmony, enjoying each other’s company for the years to come. That happy ending is not our reality, however. Things get lost; friends die; dreams do not come to light; thoughts disappear; ideas are stolen; treasures break; dragons fly away. But before they fly, there is a sweet time of fellowship— it may be a second, it may be a century. All we can do in this ever-changing life is enjoy our joys while we can, live life while we live, be with each other while we have each other. Dragons fly away- so enjoy them while you can.
(This illustration is by Justin Gerard, and he has a host of beautiful works at http://justingerard.com/– Check it out!)