YOU HAVE A PICTURE OF HOW LIFE SHOULD GO.
This is the first line on the back cover of Unhitching From the Crazy Train: Finding Rest in a World You Can’t Control, my book with Julie Sparkman that releases in just a few weeks (pre-order here). Has a truer sentence ever been written? We all have pictures – expectations – of how we think people should be, how circumstances should go. Life usually does not cooperate.
Case en pointe: the first day of school.
I had a picture of how my kids’ first day of school would go—their first day of American school after seven years in Australia. I don’t think I need to tell you this, but this day was a big deal. Starting a new school in a new country is stressful enough, so I was going to do everything in my power to make it easier for my kids. I would have all their clothes neatly ironed and folded the night before, their nutritional lunches pre-made and in the fridge waiting. I would pray with them by their bedsides, asking God for His favor and protection around their first day. I would rise early the next morning and cook them a delicious, filling, non-sugary breakfast. We would leave early so I could walk each of them in, to make sure they knew they were not alone. They would hug me and say, “Thank you, Mom. You made a tough day infinitely better with your thoughtful preparedness.” Because my kids often use phrases like “thoughtful preparedness.”
Reality: The stomach bug hit me full force two nights before their first day. From 10pm-6am, I begged the good Lord to take me home. Instead of hearing my prayers over them as they went to sleep, my kids heard sounds from my bathroom they can never un-hear. Therapy will not be cheap. I was comatose for most of the next day. When my kids came in to tell me about an argument they were having, I said, “I don’t care.” Literally. Those were my words. I tried to get up the next morning, their first day of school, but I was greeted in the hallway with the sound of vomit hitting the hardwood floor—the worst sound ever, second only to the sound of vomit hitting the carpet. Another one bites the dust. That child would be sitting out the first day. I fell back into bed, the effects of the previous night’s dose of Phenergan not quite gone. I have no idea what the other two kids ate for breakfast or packed in their lunch boxes and I didn’t even tell them goodbye because I’d fallen back asleep (see Phenergan).
In other words, things went exactly according to plan, except the opposite.
Okay, that was bad, but Day Two—a new start, right?
One child needed to be at school early to meet with a few teachers and get some important logistics taken care of. He was insistent on being early—to not be early was not an option. Well, no problem. No problem at all. Except when I was three fourths of the way to a different child’s different school that’s in a totally different direction, I received a phone call from my husband saying I had the only keys to the other car—the car that needed to take my son to school early.
All three children were late. They weren’t mad at me at all.
YOU HAVE A PICTURE OF HOW LIFE SHOULD GO.
Life rarely cooperates, amiright? Kids get the flu and the child won’t wear the fancy coat you bought him and no one likes the Mongolian beef you slaved over. Marriages struggle, kids rebel, friends are hurting and you think, “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.”
And you’re right. It’s not. The brokenness of life hurts because you were not designed for it. From Crazy Train:
“Each day, you carry around a picture of how you long for life to be. This picture is comprised of people (yourself included) and circumstances. In and of itself, there is probably nothing wrong with your picture because more than likely, it is connected back to your original design in Eden. The picture you have in your head of a beautiful relationship with your friend that’s now been fractured is a product of your innate desire to be known and unashamed. Your frustration over your job that never gets done, no matter how hard you work, springs from the fact that in Eden, man had dominion over creation, and creation cooperated 100 percent of the time. There were no leaf blowers in Eden; there were no thorns and thistles. There was no such thing as a muffin top, a bad hair day, a hot flash, or a mosquito bite. And somehow, though we were never there, we remember it. And we long for it.“
Eden. Heaven. It’s what we were made for. It’s where we long to be.
What are you longing for today? Connection? To be known? A craft project that actually works? (maybe that’s just me…) A happy family life with cooperative, appreciative, non-vomiting children who get along? Good. You should long for those things. But how are you going to respond when life just won’t match your picture? Will you control those around you and try to force them into your picture, or will you shame those longings and give up on your desires completely, because it hurts too much to be disappointed again?
Believe it or not, it is possible to own your longings and be at peace, even when you’re deeply disappointed. The answer is summed up in Jesus’ command to “Come” (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s simple, yet so, so hard.
Want to know more? Julie and I wrote a whole book about it and you can get it here. I hope you’ll read it, because God might possibly use it to change your life. I can say that because it’s changed mine.
Now, off to make those lunches so the kids can get to school on time tomorrow. Third time’s a charm…maybe.