I’ve been having a really hard time lately. I’ve not been feeling happy. I’ve been sad and afraid, my chest has ached and I haven’t been sleeping. Some of it’s old stories that keep creeping their way back into my mind, all sorts of stuff that I thought I had dealt with years ago, some of it’s new stuff. I’ve been trying to pinpoint the sick parts of my soul and what exactly needs to happen to make me fully well, make me feel happy. I get that I’m supposed to choose my thoughts, pray, ask the Lord to fix me. I’ve done the drill. Hell, I’ve preached the drill. I also know that I’m supposed to consider the things that are so very right in my life, the myriad of blessings that make my cup, not only half full, but runneth over. I have more than most, it’s true. A kind husband, three amazing and healthy kids, clean running water, some food in the fridge, two legs to stand on and twenty-twenty vision. I should be more grateful, I should be more happy, I should, I should, I should be a lot of things. But still, I don’t feel good and I’ve found myself overwhelmed, deliriously exhausted and weeping like a baby.
And at the top of it all, this feeling that I’m failing…hearing over and over in my head, the haunting, crushing, debilitating whisper that says I’m just not supposed to feel this way because I’m so blessed in so many ways and because I’m a Christian.
Yesterday Jazi came out to the porch to find me crying big tears in my morning coffee and wiping my nose on my nightgown. She said, “Mama, why are you crying?”
“I’m not really sure baby…I’m sad,” I told her.
She rubbed my shoulder with her soft little hand and said, “Are you gonna go crazy mama?”
This is a real fear for Jazi. Several of my dearest friends have been torn up by this world and have seemingly gone crazy.
“I don’t think so,” I told her. “Mama just needs to cry a bit.”
I wandered back into the bedroom and plopped myself down at the foot of the bed and my kind, not perfect, but so, so kind…truly, truly kind husband says, “Sweetie, let’s go for a walk down at the beach, get the sun on your face and the ocean breeze in your hair. It may not fix it all, but it might help a bit.”
Jon comes from really good stock. His Grandpa used to tell his mama when she was just a little girl, no matter what the circumstances were, that everything was gonna be alright. And his mama told him that and she told his brother and his sister too. I’ve heard them all say it. When my niece falls off her scooter, my sister-in-law, Jiffer, says, “You’re alright, you’re alright.” And Carly swallows up her tears and wipes her snot on her forearm and scoots herself back down the driveway. Sometimes when I’m really sad, I cup my hands over my ears and imagine Jiffer saying, “You’re alright, Sistah, you’re alright…” But lately I just haven’t had the strength to get back up on my scooter. I told Jon he should have checked my teeth before he married me. Every good cowboy knows you can tell what kind of stock a horse comes from by it’s teeth. My teeth were pretty messed up when he found me.
Jon was right about the walk. The sun was warm on my face and my shoulders and the sweet sea air filled my chest and soothed my ache. The pelicans flew low along the horizon, diving and fishing. Babies cooed and splashed in little pools at the water’s edge. Families gathered for food and sunbathing, surfing and boogie boarding. There is very little that is better than a day at the beach.
Jon listened as I babbled and bitched. Kind… and patient…man. He’s not been so happy himself lately. His job sucks. When the recession hit, he lost a job he loved and then got one he hates that pays him a lot less money. He went from an office with panoramic ocean views to a basement office with no windows and sewer pipes flushing above his desk every time someone upstairs uses the toilet. Everyone tells him he should be happy to even have a job at all in this climate. He smiles and says, “Everything is gonna be alright.”
After our walk, Jon took me to a sandwich shop that I had never been to before. The bread was fresh from the oven and warm and flaky. Jon got tuna salad and I got ham and cheese. We each got sodas and shared a bag of chips as we watched the kayaks and the stand up paddle boarders glide through the harbor.
When we got home, May said, “Mama, I have a little surprise for you.” I sat down at the end of her bed and she clicked play on her computer. Her voice rang out, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine… this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine… let it shine… let it shine…won’t let satin blow it out…I’m gonna let it shine…hide it under a bushel…No, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine… let it shine…let it shine!”
The beach, warm bread, my tender husband, my daughter’s sweet voice…
Such immeasurable joy.
But I’m still having a really hard time.
“There is a nebulous idea accepted by many in our day that faith is an almighty power flowing through the universe which anyone may plug into at will! It is conceived vaguely as a subrational creative pulsation streaming down from somewhere Up There, ready at any time to enter our hearts and change our whole mental and moral constitution as well as our total outlook on man, God and the cosmos.When it comes in, supposedly out go pessimism, fear, defeat, and failure; in come optimism, confidence, personal mastery and unfailing success in war, love, sports, business and politics. All of this is of course, a gossamer of self-deception woven of the unsubstantial threads of fancy spun out of minds of tenderhearted persons who want to believe it!”
I didn’t write that, but oh how I wish I had. I am reading, “Renewed Day by Day,” by A.W. Tozer and I came across those little pearls of truth just this morning.
Faith in God is not magic fairy dust that sprinkles you with happiness. Life is hard. It’s been hard since Adam and Eve and it will remain hard until the day Christ returns.
I am super grateful for the blessings in my life and I do have moments of immeasurable joy. But in that, I’m fighting this crazy Western notion that the joyful parts of life are not actually the moments of amazing grace and wonder, but rather moments of entitlement. We expect happiness, and when things are tough, when our heart is going through something hard and painful, when life hurts, we believe we are on the wrong track and we should fix it as soon as possible.
Somewhere between Prozac and Tony Robbins we have lost our ability to see that there might just be value in the hard times, the struggle, the grief, even the rage. Surely Christ thought so.
So if it’s all right with everyone, I’m just not gonna be happy for a while. I’m just gonna go through this… I’m gonna sit with it… be what I am… and wait. And, I’m going to accept that the timeline may take longer than what is socially acceptable or desirable…and that God himself may just be behind the whole thing.