I was a hot mess when I was thirty. And the only thing that kept me together was nothing. The truth is, I was on the verge of all kinds of trouble and was ready to cash in my life for something more appealing. What I imagined to be more appealing had so little to do with that shiny thing, and was actually about escaping reality. The truth is…
…I was nowhere near the “real” person I often claimed to be.
In the movie, As Good As it Gets, Helen Hunt’s son has a broken down immune system for which she is constantly rushing him to the ER. Needless to say, her life is not her own. On a night she finally has to herself, she arrives home with her date and as they begin kissing, her son has complications and throws up. After attending to her son, she returns to her date with remnants of the throw-up on her shirt. When he sees it, he is disgusted and says,
“This is just a little too much reality for a Friday night.”
A little too much reality.
But what is he really saying? Probably something to the effect of, “I don’t handle reality well…this looks painful. Where’s the trap door?” And I get it. Reality is rarely going to be our choice extracurricular activity.
What can be confusing is the fact that we are bombarded everyday of our lives with the “fix it” mindset. Self-help books fly off the shelves, and the more specific they are to our need, the better they sell.
I live by the motto, “You can’t fix an internal problem with an external solution.” Couple that with the phrase “…to accept the things I cannot change…” from The Serenity Prayer, and you’ve got yourself a big fat dose of reality…
…which isn’t something we need to escape.
But why not? Why not look for the trap door in our lives?
Because…even though reality is absolutely where pain lives, pain isn’t the only thing that exists in reality. Joy also lives there…as does growth, love, true healing, and my fave…peace.
As a part of my job, I often pray with people for an improvement in their lives.
“Dear God, help this person to stop this…or help that person to start doing that…or make this happen for them so that this over here will go away…or make them behave at home so their partner doesn’t want to leave…or maybe they could just smile more often so their life wouldn’t seem so terrible and awful all the time.”
But honestly, I stopped praying this way a long time ago, because it’s a bit futile, isn’t it? I will no longer pray for your financial dreams to come true if you are going to continue to escape reality by blowing all your money on dinner, movies, clothes, jewelry, vacations and the latest technical gadget for your kids. I won’t pray for your spouse to come back to you if they will be returning to an emotionally disconnected partner. I won’t pray that you’ll stop doing drugs if you won’t receive help. And I won’t pray for you to find the deeper meaning of your life if you aren’t willing to do the work.
Is doing the work going to be painful? Yes. It’s painful before it’s peaceful. But reality awaits you…and don’t forget what else lives there…the joy, the true healing, the love, the peace.
“But I want a miracle. Why does it have to be so hard? I want lightening to strike and I want God to do it for me.”
Ok then. I’m waving you on to it. And all I can say is, “Good luck with that.”
I sat with a couple yesterday as they told me about losing their daughter to Neuroblastoma Cancer last year. And as painful as their journey has been, they have chosen to sit smack dab in the middle of reality.
Their lives have been turned upside down in the most radical way…it is unimaginable to me.
As the mother spoke, tears poured down the father’s face. She saw his tears, but didn’t stop what she was saying to relieve him. This was reality…and neither of them were one bit afraid of it.
As if I wasn’t even there, she continued looking at this man she knew every part of, telling me about how quiet their house had become since they’d lost their sweet little girl. The place was so raw I could barely stand it. The living room where we sat, where Henley had taken her last breaths, was invaded by some sort of hush I can’t explain…it was something beyond even the pain.
It was simply…
For a few moments, we sat there in the quiet…all of us. And then…I started praying…right out loud for them. I didn’t pray because I hoped that God would show up. I prayed because he was already there…and if he was there, how could I not ask for his help on their behalf?
Reality is never painless. In fact it is filled with pain…the kind you’ll look at and wonder if you have it in you to overcome. Chances are, you don’t.
The most harrowingly tragic and beautiful thing I heard this young mother say was this:
“When they told me Henley had terminal cancer, I prayed that if God was going to take our little girl from us, that he would just take her now, because I didn’t want to know her any deeper than I already did, because I didn’t think I could recover if I got any more attached to her. But thank God he didn’t listen to me, Matt. Because everything that Henley brought into my life over the next three years, was exactly what I would need to make it through.”
Once you recognize the pain, stepping into it is always the right thing to do. “This is just too much reality for a Friday night” are the words of weak – those destined to live their lives half-awake.
But like I said, I get it…I’ve been there. I’m just not looking to go back anytime soon.