I’m cross-legged in bed, laptop between my knees, coffee cup balancing on one of Lena’s board books. It’s 9:55am, and Lena is napping, Elliott is in class, and I’m enjoying some of the quietest moments of my day.
A friend at Bible study asked me yesterday how are you doing? in such a sincere and measured way that I had to stop and take her seriously. How am I doing? I told her honestly,
“These days in San Antonio are such days of peace for us. Really it’s like we’re on vacation from real life for two months.”
I’ve wanted to address this, because life does seem really ideal right now. Never before in my life have I had so much time. Time to read all the recent Pultizer Prize fiction winners. To lie on the rug with my husband and baby and play for an hour with nowhere to go, nothing to do. To start a new recipe at 7:30 after the baby’s asleep and not sit down to eat the gourmet supper until 10 o’clock. To have no errands to run, no pressing and irritating phone calls to make, no manager to worry about, no deadlines approaching.
Some would say we’ve earned this. Elliott was deployed for a year soon after we got married, I discovered I was pregnant right after he left, and we prayed and endured and Skyped our way through that ridiculous year. I worked full time as an ICU nurse through my pregnancy until I broke my foot in my third trimester. After that I sat around our little apartment, waiting for a phone call from my job in case I might be able to while my day away with a few hours of sedentary desk work. Otherwise I hobbled around home and tried to avoid driving (pressing the clutch with a broken foot is not a way to help that foot heal). Then Elliott flew home and the baby came and then Elliott left again, and so for awhile I felt a lot like a single mom, and for the three months remaining of Elliott’s deployment I basically moved in with my wonderful parents.
But anyway, most of you know this story. You know this past year wasn’t easy, and those who know us really well also know that even since we’ve been reunited there have been ups and downs and stresses and one particular great, great sorrow in our lives.
I used to think that our first year of marriage was just extra hard. We just have to get through this year, I’d think to myself, and then life will be back to normal. But let’s face it. Life isn’t normal, isn’t ideal, no matter how you might portray it on your blog. Life isn’t always happy, and it isn’t always sad. Life, for most of us, is overflowing with undeserved blessings, true and loving friends, and family waiting in the wings to catch us when we fall. But at the same time life has its sharp edges that surprise us; it’s like getting a paper cut from fine stationery. Sometimes every day.
I know and choose to believe that sinful humans get their way these days; sin corrodes and surprises and cuts at our happy lives (or our hard lives, or whatever we think our lives look like today). Yet while sin exists in this world, a covenantal God also exists, and—through all life’s beatings and blessings—He is working everything together for an ultimate good. It takes a mature theology to realize that your own personal life won’t necessarily look “good” or “ideal” or “desirable” in this moment—or perhaps not overall, I’m learning to acknowledge—but you are still caught up with the good, the bad, and the ugly, into a tapestry that will be woven into ultimate, beautiful good.
Some people dread every day of their current lives and bank on the future as a time of happiness. I think I did that last year. Other people savor every day—as I’m doing now—and dread next month and next year in case they take a malicious turn. I know somewhere in between is the balance, the maturity, that allows us to survive happily in this world through all its ups, downs, and curveballs, knowing that there is a sustainer, a master craftsman, a gentle Lord, who will make it all worthwhile and beautiful in the end.