Originally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife – SGM Radio.com – April 2009
I had to delay my writing of this because Kaity woke up screaming. We are on the bus for our first trip since November and per the norm, not much about today went according to plan. Rod couldn’t get the bus started, then as we were loading the bus, our dog ran away, then we hit a two-hour traffic jam at an exit for a casino. So here we are close to midnight, and rather than sitting in Aunt Sue’s Richmond, Kentucky kitchen letting her spoil us with homemade treats, we have over an hour to go until we’re “there yet.” At least Kaity and Miranda have officially re-immersed themselves in road life and are, thankfully, worn out. Their Daddy and I are drinking our big pops (it’s “pop” in Chicago, friends) and Twitter-ing away and enjoying season nine of Everybody Loves Raymond on the DVD player, in between bumps that make Kaity a wee bit frustrated as she sleeps in her pack-and-play.
But seriously, it’s gone better than I expected, considering that since the last trip we’ve transformed from having “two babies” to “a two year old and a one year old” – both very mobile and sure of what they want. Part of that is because I tend to expect the worst, and part of it is because over the last few weeks, my sometimes shallow, impatient perspective has been sharpened a bit.
It started with my reading a memoir about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. I know… light subject matter. I found myself once again horrified by the level of evil that took place during that time and the depths of loss and suffering that were endured by the people there. I closed the book in tears and with the realization that I really have no problems! Then on cue, a few days later, my family received some disappointing news about a burden that has been at our forefront for several years (thankfully, it does not involve anyone’s health or safety!). And since then, more than half a dozen people in my circle of fellowship have either lost a loved one or are expecting to within a matter of days. (Oh, and I saw Slumdog Millionaire, which was brilliant and all but seriously depressing…)
Things get deep sometimes, don’t they? We can either muddle or waltz through life, and many times, we just take a deep breath and push ourselves through to the next mountaintop. We have been taught by our experience in 21st Century America that we are entitled to Good Stuff, that there is always something better, that if our circumstances are undesirable, we just need to work hard enough or be clever enough to change them!
At my Moms and More Bible study last week, I was reminded by a friend that those are not the priorities God has set out for His children. I can quote what she told us verbatim:
“We’re not supposed to be patiently waiting for things to get better. We’re supposed to be patiently waiting for Jesus to return.”
This friend went on to tell us about her own worst experience: losing a child at 27 weeks gestation and going through labor to deliver her still-born daughter. (I will interject here and say that until I had two babies of my own, this was my Worst Fear In Life. It always amazes me to see people still standing on the other side of it). She said that all throughout that ordeal, the Lord provided her with the greatest peace of her life… but that it would not just be “ok” – because nothing in this world will be quite right until Christ dwells on it again.
I don’t believe my friend meant we should stop trying to better ourselves or make the best possible lives for our families. What she was saying is that we are to do more than just pray for the strength and faith to get us through a current trial (be it the illness of a loved one, the loss of a job, or, you know, the Wal-mart being out of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos). I admit: I am guilty of this. I am always looking to the end of my current road… I will be happier when I get married, I will be complete when I have children, I will be successful when I finish my degree, I will be confident when I lost 20 pounds, I will be less stressed when Josh is done with high school/babies are out of diapers/such-and-such-convention is over, I will be satisfied when we get to Richmond and I’m eating Aunt Sue’s Jell-o salad and homemade biscuits…
I am loathe to admit that I pray better in the trenches, but it’s true. I am loathe to admit that I think a lot about how to make my life and the lives of my loved ones better here, but this is also true. I take on these “bee in the bonnet” tasks all the time: We need to have homemade bread. I need to personalize 150 Christmas cards. The girls need coordinating clothes for vacation. Blah, blah. I mean, these are things that I spend energy on, and even now as I list them, it’s not as embarrassing as it should be, because nearly everyone I know has the same idiosyncratic worries. We’re spinning our wheels to eat well and dress nicely and have fun and support the right causes and be witty on our Facebook status lines and…
I am not suggesting we stop living in the world we have been given to live in or enjoying the time we have here. But I am reminding myself – and anyone who happens to identify with me here – that we’re to be about the Lord’s business, and perhaps sometimes we get too distracted with playing the part to actually do it. Example: we are on our way to Southern Gospel Music Fan Fair for the first time. I have spent some time making sure we have what we need for the product table, that we have enough dress clothes to last the week, that I’ve brought enough comforts from home to keep the kids and us in pleasant moods, that I have the battery charger so we can catch plenty of it on camera, and that I Tweet our highlights so that they can be enjoyed by anyone who happens to care. But moments spent in prayer that lives will be changed by the music that is shared next week? Well, I’ve had very few, and all pretty perfunctory. And what is the point of being a “Southern Gospel” wife if I am emphasizing everything but the “Gospel?”
The notion of Heaven on Earth is older than I am. It made for a catchy Belinda Carlisle tune in the ‘80s. It’s a term used in romance novels and to describe culinary delights. And sometimes it’s misinterpreted to mean that we can have what God intends for later right now and even that we can use just the right amount of this-and-that to create it ourselves. The fact is, we won’t see Heaven in the life we’re living now.
The grandmother of some friends of mine is looking at her last days. Apparently Grandma Mitchell used to dance the jitterbug back in the day, and so her family is now imagining her jitterbugging down the streets of gold. I have been thinking about that all night. Can you imagine? I mean, take the absolute best moment of your life, the one that still makes you swell with emotion when you remember (I think for me it’s still seeing that first test that told me “YES! You’re pregnant!” on April 12, 2006). Heaven is going to be infinitely better than that. We have hope that is beyond reason, we have joy that is more than optimism, we have a promise that is enough to be the foundation for everything we do. On Rod’s last CD he sang a song about Heaven that said “just one glimpse will do.” And that’s the thing: all we get here are glimpses. I’m going to try to stop working so hard to see them… but rather to slow down, and recognize them as they occur, and wait patiently for the day that we all get to do perform our dance of choice in a much better place.