Why I don't choose joy in tough situations

It's been a good while since I've written anything here. In my defense, I had a post due for another site that I procrastinated like a good writer does, and it left me zapped. Actually, winter has a way of dragging me down. It's dark and cold and keeps people indoors; it drives an active, outdoorsy person like me a bit bananas. On top of this, our dog died, our kitchen appliances went on strike, and my husband's work schedule feels relentless. I've found myself wallowing in the muck this winter, trying to climb out but slipping each time I get a strong footing.
What a sad sight. 
Currently, I'm reading Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary, and it's been so thought-provoking. Essentially, the book is about embracing the ordinary moments in our lives and finding God in something as mundane as brushing our teeth. Chapter four explores the everyday moments of chaos that we encounter and encourages readers to view these as opportunities to see how much grace we need. Harrison Warren writes about the conundrum of finding more peace while she lived in a conflict zone than while living in her safe, middle-class life in the States:
"I had a theology of suffering that allowed me to pay attention in crisis, to seek small flickers of mercy in profound darkness. But my theology was too big to touch a typical day in my life. I'd developed the habit of ignoring God in the midst of the daily grind" (55). 
I can relate. It's easy for me to see glimmers of God at work in big, chaotic situations--especially when they're not directly impacting me. But when my dog dies and all my appliances quit and it's cold and my husband is gone on the weekends---I don't see glimmers of God. Instead, I see endless chaos. This begs the question: how do we see God in the everyday chaos?

I think it's different for every person. Harrison Warren writes about engaging in a habit of repentance:
"Our communal practice of confession reminds us that failure in the Christian life is the norm" (57). 
I like this idea. Confessing the times I overreacted, the times I too easily traded peace for anger--this practice of zooming in on my behavior allows me to zoom out so I can begin to see God in the bigger picture.

Earlier this week, my husband and I ripped out a set of cabinets to make room for a new refrigerator since our old one decided it was simply too tired to continue operating consistently. We sopped up water that leaked from the thawing freezer, taped off walls that needed to be painted, and moved everything out of the kitchen cluttering the rest of the house. All the while, I swore under my breath. I snapped at my kids when they walked through the kitchen. It was contained chaos at best.

An hour later we were out to dinner with our kids eating greasy, sub-par Chinese food. We dipped crab rangoon into sweet and sour sauce and talked about our day. The kids chattered about their recent field trip to a science museum and their lunch time trades. My husband made funny faces at the kids, and they laughed. Suddenly, I was overcome with gratitude for my kids and my husband and this little family God created.

Lord, I'm a damn fool. Forgive me for my shitty attitude, I prayed.

My kitchen was still a hot mess of water and broken appliances, but here we were--a little family of four with money to replace the damn refrigerator and still enough to eat crappy Chinese take-out.

Repenting isn't easy, and we may come to it kicking and screaming or reluctant as hell. However, there is a sort of tenderness and humility that comes from the act of admitting our wrongdoings and asking for forgiveness. I once thought that I could make it through tough situations if I could just choose joy. It was a cliche I believed; I thought making a choice to be joyful would somehow overshadow my frustration, that joy would allow me to see God at work. It didn't work. Instead, I grew more frustrated when I couldn't push out what I deemed as bad juju. Joy is not an anecdote for sadness or frustration. The truth is, every moment, every feeling is purposeful, and God came to redeem not a perfect world; He came to save a broken world.  If we can acknowledge our reality and repent of our sinful reactions to our reality, perhaps we will be able to zoom out to see God at work in the bigger picture of our lives.

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