I recently bought a new set of crisp white linens for my bed. As with most things I buy, I justified the purchase because the price was unbeatable. Once I got the sheets home, washed, and on the bed, I realized that the fitted sheet was just a tad too small for our rather thick mattress. I honestly didn’t care much, because the dazzling newness of the bedclothes made the tight fit worth it. That is, until I woke up at 3 am with fitted sheet all crumpled beneath my upper back, my face smooshed against the bare mattress.
This blog post fits my heart as well as that sheet fits my mattress.
I’ve noticed a trend in our Christian sub-culture, blogs, and books. In an effort to be authentic to the world and real with the details of our lives, we talk and write with an Eeyore attitude on life. Understandably, we want the world to know that as followers of Jesus, we don’t have all our crap together, nor does our faith require us to. We fear the world sees the church as a country club of hypocrites who fictitiously act as if we have polished lives. To some degree, this is unfortunately how the church has come to present itself.
However, I believe we inadvertently swing to the other side of the spectrum. I have been prone to this settling: far to one end, only acknowledging to everyone how horrible I am at most things. I am guilty of blogging Debbie-Downer-post after post. For the sake of honesty, I try to share genuine struggles and the humorous bad mom moments of my life. That’s in truth who I am and what my life looks like. So, I don’t take issue with sharing our problems.
I have, however, grown weary of the lack of hope-filled solutions, the absence of higher calling, and fewer challenges to seek joy in the midst of struggle.
I was recently telling my husband my thoughts on how the Christian sub-culture has taken up valuing the bad day, the “worst-mom-ever” tweets, and the “it is what it is” posts. We embrace them because we identify with them. There is a sick comfort in knowing others struggle as we do, and hopefully more. I am guilty. I do this. I am this. And I apologize to you, reader.
I was telling my husband I felt the need to write about this challenge to the blogger, to Christians: that it’s okay to be happy. Our aim is not to trump each other with our worst. We are missing our call when we highlight the bad and dramatic details of life. We are called to cling to what is good, right?
I was all up on my high horse about this post…until Monday, when the elastic in the new linens popped at the corners.
Monday morning, I crammed all the cranky kids into the packed car along with a rug that needed to be returned. After dropping the oldest three off, little Judah and I headed to run the errand. It was early, but we had quite the drive ahead of us, especially in Houston traffic. (Or, so I thought).
We pulled into the parking lot at 8:15 am. The store didn’t open until 10:00 am.
In went the movie and out came my phone to check emails.
That’s when I opened it…the kind of email that stops a day. A delivery that holds expected and unsurprising news, yet when it opens its mouth and announces, the words suck the wind out of your lungs. A simple email of fact: time called and last breath taken. I sat, salty tears and all.
Then the A/C stopped working…8:23 am.
I was hot, sticky, snotty, and already done with the Baby Songs video on loop.
We got out and walked from one store front to the next in the strip mall. Finally, at 9:00 a few stores let us in. We purchased little unneeded things to distract from the slowness of the clock ticking and the looming speed of life’s inevitable end.
At 9:50 am, I was standing outside the automated glass doors of World Market, shoeless toddler on hip, eye liner smudged under my right eye, and my bangs pasted to my drenched forehead. Open. Open. Open. For the love, let me in.
The rug was carried in and I handed over my receipt.
“Now I just need the card you used to pay for this…”
I knew I didn’t have it. I had asked for it early that morning, and in the chaos of backpacks and breakfasts on-the-go, it never made the switch from his wallet to mine.
I asked for any possible bend of the rules, a loophole in the fine print, mercy from the manager…
After a trip across town to pick up the card, a ditching of my oven of a car, an AWOL child at the school pick up line, and another trek to World Market (this time in the traffic I had earlier feared and will all four kids), I was finally headed home.
After a late dinner with Daddy still at work and a rushed bedtime, I contemplated my previous goals for the day. What was even left of it?
I thought about this challenge to wear joy as proudly as we wear our hot-mess.
I had been so on fire to write. Now, the sheet didn’t fit. The post had popped. It was an altogether uncomfortable ripple in my spine to derive joy from that day. My face had been smooshed between the raw naked facts of death and my idealized happy sheets.
Perhaps this is exactly the circumstance to address our glamorization of ‘blah’. The facts that my laundry is piled in the corner, my child still struggles to know his letters, and my diet consists of leftover opened packages of fruit snacks washed down with lukewarm coffee shrink in comparison to the certainty of death. It comes for all of us. There is no system to beat it, no folder to organize it, no app on which to schedule it. It is this thought that strings together my emotional rant about “I suck” blogs and binds them to an in-your-face raccoon eyes in World Market brand of reality:
While we are breathing…while we have breath…shouldn’t we long for more?
Are you really satisfied with reading another blog about a mom that failed to turn in a permission slip? Are you finding ultimate joy seeing yet another post about the shortcomings of discipline tactics, albeit humorous? If all I do is write about how much of a struggle life is, then I have failed you.
Because here’s the thing: I have a solution to all of my many daily problems and shortcomings…Jesus. He gives me value and worth when I feel like a worthless invalid who can’t keep up with society’s expectations.
If all I air is my dirty laundry and imply that living among the muck is good enough, then again, I have failed you. Jesus conquered death and now lives in me, and this causes me to look more like Him…like a conquerer of sin and despair.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
When life tests us–with its ridiculous refund regulations, its sin, its filth, even its death…we are to be transformed, changed, and renewed. We are to better see and understand what is good, acceptable, and perfect (Jesus). If I read an entertaining blog that recounts a child’s fit due to the tag in their shirt, I want to be left with more than a few laughs. I want to learn how to discern the will of God in and through that experience. If I take in an article about depression, I want to it to put out the face of joy. If we, as the church, want to be honest and authentic with the world we live in, then we have to offer them more than just the daily crap.
We have to offer them the genuine and real Jesus, who has the ability to redeem our every situation, heal our broken hearts, and actually call us forward to better.
Do we need to be honest that right now our fridge is packed with only ketchup and coffee creamer? Sure. Do I need to know that Jesus loves me even when I don’t have a monthly meal plan or clean toilets? Absolutely. But I also need to know that Jesus desires better for me and empowers me to do the things I feel I can’t.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
He wants me to know it’s okay to be happy. He wants you to know. It’s okay to write a blog post that’s about the hope I have, the good I see, and the joy I’ve been given. It’s okay, even in the face of sin, cancer, and death to have joy and lightness of heart.
After all, it is the ability to possess joy and peace in the midst of even the worst day, that makes our message stand out. The fact that we struggle only joins us with the rest of humanity. We all struggle. We all sin. We all don’t have our crap together. We all face the same end. But the message of Jesus provides the ultimate solution for all the problems we face: beauty in the mud…fertility out of the barren…life out of the dead.
I’m keeping the sheets. Tonight, when I climb in, I will tug at the elastic, pulling each corner to its limits, covering all. As I wrestle in the wee-hours of dark to find peaceful rest, if a corner pops, let it be a reminder to me. My weak heart is prone to shorten the length of His love and mercy and grace, especially as I toss and turn through this difficult life. However, His sovereign solutions never fall short for my plethora of problems. He came so I could have life abundant (John 10:10). He lives so that I may live (John 11:25). I am more than a conquerer through Him (Romans 8:37). It’s okay to be happy (Psalm 63:5).
So I had not read your blog until today and what a hot mess of a week it has been. Thanks for the reminder that it is Friday, I have the opportunity to rest and be refreshed both in body and soul. Put away that angry face and smile Frances – God is in control. Be HAPPY!!!!
So glad that God was able to use it as an encouragement! I didn’t read your response until today, and it was exactly what I needed. Thank you!
I met you and husband long time ago in my teens. I think my brother was on camp staff with yall at CLS. He came so I can have abundant life. John 10:10 I am so grateful to of read from your heart this morning . Team Jesus! Blessings!
Yay! Team Jesus! 🙂