So, this happened this morning. Yep, that’s Bambi in my toilet. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
Sometimes I feel like a dog chasing her tail with the whole Sunday morning thing. I’m so optimistic and oblivious, persistently trying, even though it’s clear to everyone else: I’m NEVER GOING TO CATCH IT. I don’t think I’ll ever get everyone ready in a smooth, uneventful manner, AND get there on time. Maybe one or the other, but never both. Last Sunday, around 7:30am, I heard a high-pitched BEEP BEEP BEEP. BEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEP. BEEP BEEP BEEP. I ran around the house checking smoke alarms, then determined it was coming from the furnace room. By this time my 5 year old was staring at me sleepily in her PJ’s, and my toddler was yelling at me from up in her crib, wanting to get out. I gave up the search for the beep source to make breakfast, then resumed the hunt while the girls were occupied by their food. That’s really the only time I can always count on a few free minutes consecutively-when they have food in their mouths. I searched high and low in the furnace room, ear to ceiling, ear to floor, and still couldn’t find it. Lots of horrific possibilities immediately presented themselves: carbon monoxide, natural gas, radon. It was highly likely in my mind that we would all be with Jesus at the pearly gates by the time church rolled around anyway. I’m calm, cool, and collected like that, remember? So I called my mother-in-law, who was the first person I could think of who is ACTUALLY calm and cool and might know what to do. She raised eight kids, and miraculously got them all to church on Sundays, so she deserves a Nobel. Or to be sainted, or something. She brought me back to sanity, as she always does, but I was no closer to finding the beeping culprit, so I just kept rolling with teeth-brushing and shoe-searching and called backup: my brother in law. (By this time, you’re probably realizing I am completely dependent on my family. When my mom’s not here, I have roughly 37 other people I can call because my in-laws are INCREDIBLE. I married into THE BEST family. If you watch Parenthood, it’s like being a Braverman, except 10 times better. And without all the marijuana and yelling at each other. I have NO IDEA how I got so lucky, but I’m not questioning God’s mercy. I’m thankful.) He couldn’t find the source either, but he turned off our gas lines to prevent any possible tragedies, and we made it to church.
Grrrrrrrrr. Willaaaaaaaaaaaaa. C’mon, kid. I see Audrey’s face in the doorway, confused. “What happened?”
“Oh, nothing serious, Willa just dropped this book in the toilet.”
“What?! I LOVED that book and now we’re missing one of the books to our set and there’s gonna be an empty space and IT’S NOOOOT FAIR!!!!!!!!”
Now, at this moment I had a choice. I could point out the fact that she hadn’t played with this book in years. I could mention the fact that actually we’re missing a few others in the set due to unfortunate incidences such as this one. I could lecture about how you’re not allowed to decide something is your favorite when you only just remembered it’s existence. I could say those things. Because they’d be true. But instead I just surrendered, and let it be a teachable moment.
“You’re right, honey, it’s not fair. I’m so sorry the book is ruined. It’s truly a bummer. Life isn’t fair, and I’m really sorry.”
As I cautiously fished the sad, soggy book out of the toilet, my mind pondered my daughter’s demands for fairness. Wanna talk about fair? What about poor Bambi?! His mom is shot down in cold blood and now this?! (Speaking of life not being fair, can we talk about the Disney death motif? Sheesh. It’s like the Disney writers need counseling or something.) Also, my poor, overworked toilet is yet again having to put up with the crazy shenanigans of a family who uses and abuses it, completely taking it for granted. I offer a silent “thank you” to my tired toilet.
In that moment, in my daughter’s little hour of injustice, I realized that I was acknowledging all the OTHER suffering parties in the situation. Bambi, my toilet, even poor guilty Willa, who was just curious as to what would happen if she dropped the book into the strange mini-bathtub. I was able to see it from everyone’s point of view and empathize. And it’s because I wasn’t the one affected. When I experience an injustice of my own, it’s much more difficult to take a step back and see anyone else’s point of view. It’s much easier to scream and stomp my foot and throw a major pity party. But the downside of a pity party is I’m always alone there. When I choose to be that small-minded, I shut myself off from everyone else and I miss an opportunity for growth.
Through different seasons, God has taught me that the unfairness in life can actually be a gift, if I can see it that way. When I’ve allowed it, it has drawn me closer to Jesus-the one who, when confronted with the worst injustice imaginable, chose not to retaliate, but poured himself out for his oppressor. When I feel wronged I have an opportunity to choose openness. Openness toward others even though all I want is to close myself off and build the walls of self-defense. Openness toward God, my rescuer and defender, who can save me from even the darkness in my own heart: pride, selfishness, jealousy. Sometimes it takes the unfairness to show me how radically merciful and kind God really is, and because of that how freely I can offer mercy to those who hurt me. Knowing the love of God for me, despite my brokenness, is what frees me to love my enemy. When I’m tempted to shake my fist and scream “That’s not fair!!!!!”, may I have the courage to empty myself and let God’s love fill me. May I have the humility to put myself in someone else’s shoes and offer comfort in their pain, instead of pitying myself. And may I have the wisdom to run immediately to Jesus and be thankful for the reminder that I am completely dependent on God.
On a completely different note, I feel obliged to inform you that this also happened this morning:
After all that talk about humility, I need to brag a little. My daughter’s skirt was hopelessly wrinkled this morning, and instead of saying the usual, “meh”, I DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Yay ME! I’m not saying I’m supermom, but I am asking for a cape for mother’s day. I think we can all agree this earns me that. Granted, I didn’t actually go downstairs and get out the whole ironing board and all that mess, because, ya know, WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?! Certainly not me. I’ve got bigger problems. Like Bambi in the toilet. I can’t be bothered. But I’m sharing this genius life hack with you, just like I did with my daughter this morning. You’re welcome. Just call me Martha Stewart-without the jail time, hopefully.
Here’s to some future Sunday, when my daughter will be flat ironing her own skirts, and I will not be fishing books out of toilets. Until then I’ll try to enjoy the adventure.