Yesterday was a shitty day.
Now, if you clicked onto this blog expecting some very churchy-type words spoken in a holy, lofty way, and my phrasing offends you, I really am sorry. It’s not my intent. But it is the truth.
Years ago, I was part of the leadership of a women’s Bible study. The woman in charge made an impression on me . . . at the time, I didn’t realize just how strong it had been, but even now, nearly fourteen years later, I’m still trying to shake some of her beliefs that I took as my own. She wasn’t deliberately in error, but what she taught was hurtful and damaging to many women seeking God.
I clearly remember her telling us that as Christians, it was our responsibility to always put on a happy face.
“Never go out into the world and complain or admit that your life is anything but blessed,” she instructed me one day. “As a Christian, you are the example, and who is going to follow Jesus if you look like you’re not always happy?”
For a long time–too long–I bought into that. If there was something wrong in my world–and there was crappy crud, most of the time, because we live in this world–I stuffed it down. I put on a good show. I walked on the sunny side of the street. I put on a happy face.
But I was miserable.
Because God is a loving Father, He very gently but firmly led me to see that the way I was living was not what He asked. I checked, and nowhere in the Bible does Jesus instruct anyone to pretend anything. He doesn’t tell the disciples, as they’re about to preach before record-setting crowds, to put on their game faces.
Only one time does Jesus tell us to ‘cheer up’: in John 16:33, He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus doesn’t say, “Believe in me and life becomes one big banquet of happy.” No, He very clearly tells us that we WILL have troubles. But He also tells us that in Him, we can have peace.
So I stand by my first sentence. Yesterday was a shitty day. I’d finished a book the night before, and I was so relieved about that, but as always, the next one is bearing down on me. We just returned from a trip to New Jersey to see my father-in-law, who has Parkinson’s disease and is in a nursing home, with severe dementia. The visit was not a good one, and his decline is sad. My husband continues to seek pastoral opportunities–chances to minister to those who need to know God loves them–but doors seem to be closing, not opening. The bank account is dwindling close to zero, nearly five months after the church eliminated his position. A check promised us for one of his preaching engagements hasn’t arrived. My publisher is very, very late on my royalty payments. Friends are suffering, and violence struck in the UK.
Yup, it was a shitty day.
Instead of pretending that it wasn’t, I did what God wants me to do. I got real with Him. As I went about my day, doing laundry, catching up on work and making dinner, I talked to Him about what troubled me. I pointed out why I was worried, where I felt maybe He was falling down on the job and how I think things should be.
He listened, because He loves me, and what He desires from me isn’t false happiness, pretend praise or a veneer of Christian joy. He wants my heart, that damaged, ugly, scarred and less-than-perfect vessel. He wants me, in all of my imperfection. He wants a relationship that is real, not a daily check-in where I put on a happy face.
And then He answered me, because He loves me, and what He wants for me is real growth, maturity and an even closer relationship with Him. He didn’t give me a timeline for answers. He didn’t promise things were going to get better before they got worse. But He did tell me that He is in charge, He knows the whole story, beginning to end, and even if things get much, much worse, He’s still got this.
He reminded me of one of my very favorite songs, The One Thing I Know by Sara Groves:
And the veil just lifted
I can finally understand
The way you work in me
But even if I didn’t
You are still a sovereign God
Who has a plan for me.
So even if I don’t get it, He is still God, and His plan is still in place. I can trust Him.
This morning, my husband handed me a little square of cotton. He’d been doing laundry yesterday and found this . . . these small facial wipes were a gift from an author friend, and each has an inspirational saying. This is the one my husband gave me:
That, my friends, is as real as it gets. Yes, things get shitty sometimes, but God is never going to leave us. I don’t need to pretend to be happy all the time; He only wants me to hold tight to His promise:
“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”