Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Out of Misery and Into Joy

It occurred to me over homemade mac and cheese, a generous piece of store-bought chocolate cake, and a glass of wine. It was sometime last October or November, sitting in my new rental house all alone, watching PBS. The kids were with their Dad for the weekend, and while I missed them and was still getting used to the idea of them being gone, I didn't feel lonely. For the first time, I had the delicious thought that I was free to do whatever I wished. No one to judge me. No one to guilt me, boss me around, or look over my shoulder. Thirty years of life, and I finally felt like an adult. I could watch what I wanted, and no one would care. I could eat and drink what I wanted, and no one would think ill of me. I could talk to whomever I wanted without raising suspicions. I could go to the store at midnight, and who would even know?

It may seem a silly thing, but it was rather revolutionary for me. I'm not used to such a wide range of choices nor used to exercising the full range of my volition.

I've lost so much in the last year. Marriage, house, friends, neighborhood, idyllic dreams of things that probably never would have been anyway. But through it I've discovered the amazing love of friends who continue to minister to me while I sort through the random pieces of my life. Friends who give my kids and me a place to live. Friends who come and clean, pack, paint, move. Friends who give food and money. Friends who call me up just to check on me. Friends who anonymously leave gifts on our doorstep. And new friends at my new school as we train for our new careers, who offer me encouragement and inspiration as we struggle through together.

I hesitate to say that I'm a better person now. We have failed to keep a vow, and there is no way to glamorize or martyrize that. It is a failure, a sin, a breech of trust, a broken contract. But it is what it is. And life goes on, somehow.

With my newfound sense of freedom comes a lifting of the weight that has held me down for so long--the unspoken expectations I was so sure God had of me. Surely I must put myself through the spiritual wringer time and again to gain His approval. Die to self, die to self, die to self. Resistance if futile, and misery marks progress. Be miserable, for I am miserable.

The great thing about blowing the big stuff like marriage is that everyone in church loses their expectations of you. You move into the category of divorcee, whose only options remaining are to screw it up even further or play the single parent martyr. There is freedom in not having to try to impress people anymore.

Such a funny thing, then, to find that when I stop trying so damn hard to be holy--when I give up on the idea of guilting myself into spiritual fitness--I move out of misery and into joy. And while I've roughened up around the edges (when did I start swearing?), I feel more authentically Christian, more whole, more at ease with myself. For the first time in a long time (dare I say ever?), I found myself saying a phrase that felt foreign on my lips- "I am happy."

And wonder of wonders, God hasn't struck me down yet. Who knew.

1 comment:

Laurie M. said...

Wow, I'm so sorry for all your losses. But I've been there, twice. I know the happiness you speak of as well. God is remarkably kind to us sinners.