Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The It-Gets-Better Sequence

When it happened, I was in the preliminary stages of a bad attitude.

You know the kind. One of those nasty, I'm mad at the world and so misunderstood, not to mention undeserving of all of these trials, and furthermore, if I had it my way...blah blah blah.

One of those attitudes.

And there was actually no reason for the change of perspective that seemed to be sweeping over me almost involuntarily. Life was good. We had been living in Tulsa for about ten months. I had just finished having coffee with a new acquaintance, a really nice woman and fellow mom that seemed to have major friend potential, fall was fully present all around me in a glorious display of color, and my family was thriving. But for whatever reason, hormones or lack of sleep (not for something justifiable like having a newborn or a sick child, but because I like to stay up until all hours of the night reading or being crafty when I really should be in bed) or even just because I was feeling a little lonely, my perspective had started to change, throwing up red flags and warning signs throughout the whole day.

It started in the morning when I woke up kind of blue and tried to make myself feel better by yelling at my daughter for not brushing her hair the right way. When she had tried her best and after all, isn't that what mothers are for? To help you with your hair when your little arms are too tired to get all the tangles out?

Then I got annoyed with the girl who rang me up at CVS and I was unaccountably snappish with her. Over chapstick.

Then there was the road rage in the early afternoon. Someone cut me off and instead of shaking my head and smiling sarcastically like I normally do, I shouted "What the heck!" at my windshield, throwing both hands up in the air, hoping the other driver saw me and my apparent I'm not gonna take nothing from nobody spunk. Worse still, the kids were in the car and in the middle of telling me about their day. Not that I was listening or anything. I was full of me-ness. Me. Me. Me. It's all about me.

So when Derek unintentionally and apologetically came home late from work, I freaked out. Instead of being grateful that he has such a good job, which goes hand in hand with needing to stay a bit late from time to time, or being so very happy that he never has to work weekends like he used to and almost always is home by 5:30, like he never used to be. The minute he walked in the door, I attacked, going on and on about being on time and being inconsiderate and food burning in the oven and so on. When I don't even have to work. He has never asked me to get a job. He has always thought it a grand idea for me to stay home with my kids if I wanted to. And he's never late.

So the day had been bad. I was working quite energetically toward Jerk of the Week status. 

I think you know what I mean.

Most of us go insane from time to time, calling our very greatest blessings burdens, or worse, curses.

I think many of us struggle with depression from time to time too, although it seems to have a stigma of embarrassment that surrounds the admittance of it, which I think further alienates us from each other and the comfort we are meant to give and receive. 

So after my poor children were in bed I went to coffee with a new chum and successfully mastered what I call the fake-out. I was sweet, witty and fun. I discussed my life lightheartedly, with depth and humor. I asked friendly questions and grinned from ear to ear. It was an Oscar-worthy performance. You would have never known I was seriously struggling, inexplicably so, with depression, ingratitude and anger.

Then I got back in my car and began to sink back down down down into the doldrums of depression, forgetting the ever present help in time of need that is promised to me (Ps. 46:1) and casually throwing aside the promise that I am never left, never forsaken, loved more than I can humanly comprehend and chased. I am chased, pursued like I'm completely lovely. No matter where I go, who I become in error, or what I decide in foolishness, Psalm 139 assures me that I can never escape the care and love of God. No matter what. Nothing separates me from His love.

Not even unfounded depression.

As I drove down 71st toward home, lost in grayness and quiet, full of dark inward contemplation, a light rain began to fall. The soggy lights of storefronts and restaurants whizzed past my car windows, distant in their light and cheeriness, the leaves falling off the trees whirled aimlessly down into the night and became mush under the wet tires of my car and the very air seemed to press down on me, exacting pressure toward my joy, causing me to feel a domino effect of sadness to the very marrow of my soul. 

And then I saw it.

As I drove past the sign, it looked like someone had been in the middle of changing out the message and had given up halfway. The letters to the three words remaining were all askew, one letter even dangling. Perhaps the letter changer had been caught in the rain? Each word was on a different row of the sign, and with no symmetry, causing my eyes to instantly assume that whatever the message would be, it was in no way complete. It was a church sign, something old and made of brick with the white section for a message and the black letters that fit into the tracks on the top and bottom of each row. It was set out by the road, dimly lit in the rainy night, the accompanying building behind it dark and unoccupied. The three words remaining, in no regular manner were: It Gets Better.

It took a minute for the words to hit me, so lost was I in the quicksand of self-pity.

 And then hit me it did, like a slap in the face.

On so many levels.

It Gets Better.

For me. That message was for me. It was intended for me to see as I drove home from something as hopeful as a new friendship, but with a poisonous attitude. How often has God's voice been so blatant in my life, reaching across supernatural mystery and the beauty of Creation, surpassing the sovereignty that I never understand and delivering a simple message. To me. In English.

How apt to single me out with three little words. And so full of grace, this message from Heaven. Call it what you want, but goosebumps travelled from my scalp to my toenails, as I experienced the personal kindness of God, complete with a sense of humor to interrupt my descent into the world of woe is me.

You see, I have been given one of my heart's desires in living here in Tulsa. And not only that, but the whole thing has been easy. Too easy. Supernaturally easy. There's the job Derek was able to get - and he loves it, the wonderful school we found for our children, the church we accidentally landed in that is perfect for us, the house we rented sight unseen and how it ended up being so right for our family, the timing of it all. Every detail of our transition here has been peaceful and joyous and exciting. There are the distinct fingerprints of God all over it.

So I should have known by then, as I drove home, that He has a plan. He knows exactly what I need. Jeremiah 29:11 tells me "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  All I must do is trust and follow, knowing that His plans for me will fit me perfectly, make me smile, laugh and sing, and will ultimately change me into a beautiful representation of His life and love.

It's true. 

And those were the three words I needed that night. It was the only pick me up that would work. He spoke to me like a small child, petting my hair and crooning it gets better. He spoke to me like a coach, causing me to buck up and snap out of it with it gets better. He spoke to me as the planner of my future, the keeper of my dreams, assuring me that it gets better. And he spoke to me as a writer, infusing my imagination with the hope of a life that boasts a good plot. The It Gets Better sequence. Unless you're sadistic, I can't imagine a much better plot for one's life.

Pulling into my drive that night, I was freshly invigorated and ready to apologize. I jumped out of the car and raced into the house to share my experience with Derek. I had new eyes to see the great bounty that had been heaped in my lap, undeservedly. And God had spoken to me in a new way. He used a silly haphazard church sign in the middle of construction to speak simple truth to my heart like healing balm.

Maybe it's the truth you needed to hear too.

Such nourishment was not meant for me alone.

Know it to be true. The future trumps the past. God's plans for you are wondrous. And daily. They involve the ordinary, mundane things of life and they point the way to an extraordinary perspective. All of life takes on full color in the shadow of those great wings.

As you drive along, perhaps in the rain, with the scenery of your life flashing by, look up and see the sign.

It gets better.  

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