Stretch Armstrong, Desire and Laughter

Several years ago I really wanted a Stretch Armstrong doll for Christmas. The doll’s marketing team must have known what they were doing because they targeted me through catchy commercials and it worked. Once I saw the rubbery doll stretch to incredible lengths, I was sold.

Wouldn’t you know, my consistent Stretch Armstrong-focused pleas worked—he was waiting for me under the Christmas tree that year. I was mesmerized by Stretch’s rubbery skin and extending limbs. Surely this doll would be fun forever! And then, not long after Christmas, I was bored with it. He sat on a chair in my room, untouched, until the next time I collected toy donations during a parent-mandated bedroom cleaning.

I had begged for that doll, dreaming of what it would be like to have one. I finally received what I wanted, and so—now what?

There was a lengthy season of my life when I deeply desired a husband and maybe even a child or two. My days of longing turned into years, and eventually the thought of ever having a husband and kids felt improbable. I wasn’t so sure my desires would ever become a reality.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it happened. I was married more than two years ago, and my husband and I are now expecting our first child. I finally received what I so desperately wanted. After years of yearning, the fulfillment of my great big dreams begged the question—now what? What do we do once that which we desire actually happens?

Maybe, like my Stretch Armstrong doll, it’s our most anticipated gift and is the recipient of all of our attention. Or maybe, as I’ve found in my own life, anxiety, apathy, or discontentment begin to creep in. Suddenly, as is the case with my unborn child, I bypass the glory of the gift because I’m so wrapped up in anxiety that it will be taken away. Before I know it, the awesome reality of my fulfilled desire doesn’t hold a candle to my crippling anxiety. I’m not sure this is the “Now what?” God intended for us.

It can be so easy for our deep hope and fervent prayers to become a distant memory once our desires are met. My husband and still unborn child certainly aren’t being left to collect dust in the corner, as Stretch Armstrong was, but I’ll admit I can be apathetic in my marriage or focus on how we can continue growing together without allowing gratitude for what we have now.

What would it look like for my “Now what?” to hold not anxiety, apathy, or discontentment, but peace, joy, and faith?

When I think of met desires, my mind often goes to Abraham and Sarah. They longed for a child, but, with each of them closing in on 100 years old, the likelihood of their hopes becoming a reality felt wildly improbable.

Then, it happened. Sarah had a son named Isaac and, together with Abraham, experienced the pure elation of met desires. Now what?

Here’s what Abraham and Sarah did next: They embraced laughter (Genesis 21:6), threw a party (21:8), listened to God (21:4, 22:3), and held on to the faith they had in His continued goodness (22:8). In fact, their response to the question of “Now what?” eventually helped to land them in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11).

I’m not so sure that following up met desires by taking on anxiety, sitting in apathy, or looking for the next new thing is behavior that would land me in the Hall of Faith. The Hall of Faith response, however, is what I want for my own life. I want to savor every met desire, sitting awestruck at the overwhelming grace of it all. I want to laugh, throw parties, listen intently, and remain covered in the faith that God will not give me any precious gift without remaining present with us. This is not something I will live into perfectly, but I have to believe it beats the anxious or dissatisfied alternative.

It’s true—you’ll never see a photo of me with Stretch Armstrong in any Hall of Faith, but, by the grace of God, I am getting more chances to respond to my met desires as Abraham and Sarah did. Now what? Now I laugh, celebrate, and trust in God’s goodness.

Mallory ‘Larsen’ Redmond received her master’s degree in Theology & Culture from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. Recently married to her husband, Darren, she is enjoying this new season of life as a wife and writer. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.