Sometimes my eyes are sad. I guess if I’m being honest, sometimes is now. And I think it’s okay. Sometimes, I think, our lives go through a great reckoning. Maybe that’s what I will name the first two years of my thirties; The Great Reckoning. Because I look in the mirror, and the face staring back is unfamiliar. My life all around me is unfamiliar and I wonder,”What happened Lord?”
Because my dreams have all turned to ash in my hand. I’m not who I wanted to be, or where I wanted to be. I’ve had to let go of so many expectations. Great American novelist? Nope. Oscar winning screenwriter? Nope. Mom of a huge brood, barefoot and pregnant. Nope. Long flowing hair, nope. Living somewhere where it snows with some equity in my house? Nope. Retirement? Nope. Adopted a baby? Nope. Moderately successful blog? Not even.
Just a series of nopes in a long line of unfulfilled hopes.
A litany of perceived failures.
And I look around again and I wonder who am I?
I tell my kids they can be anything they want. Anyone they want. They can do anything.
Shouldn’t I “be” something by now?
But who am I? Impatient, weary, worn down.
With the sad eyes.
And so, I’m watching everything around me burn to the ground. My expectations, my hopes, my crumbly little charred dreams. None of it is what I thought.
I’m bringing God my sad eyes.
Jonah woke up one day on a large ship. Being tossed around like my 4 year olds toy boat in our master-bath’s soaking tub. There was no hope. Red toy boat was capsizing in the giant body-swish waves that were now overtaking the bathtub ledge and spilling onto the tile.
At least I won’t have to mop.
But in all seriousness, I wonder about Jonah’s eyes too. Were they sad like mine. He had so much unmet expectation. God sent him in the opposite direction he had envisioned. He screamed, “THIS IS NOT MY BEST LIFE NOW.” And he ran the other way. Because surely Gods best wasn’t in Nineveh.
I bet his eyes were sad, because parts of us decay when we hide from God and hold our dreams too close to our chest.
As my 4 year olds boat threatened to capsize, I noticed my own sad, weary eyes in my toothpaste stained mirror, There is so much heaviness. I think, I could have been so much more by now. If I had been more faithful, if I had been stronger, different, x, y, z. But I sailed away from God because following him can be so costly. It can hurt.
Because my life doesn’t look like enough when I hold it up to the world. How can we measure up to the impossible standards around us, or that we set for ourselves. Juggling all the things, mastering all the skills, having it all, looking amazing, slaying in all the ways. Crafts! Mompreneurial empires! Wonder Woman! Kicking ass, taking names, and having dinner on the table by 6pm with the requisite amount of vegetables.
But Jonah woke up in the middle of the tempest. He knew, to save those around him, he had to get off the boat. He told the sailors and was promptly tossed overboard. Sad eyes and all. And he cried out.
‘In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.'”
We all know the next part of the story. Just like my 4 year olds shark bath puppet gobbles up Chase from Paw Patrol, so too does a giant fish swallow Jonah.
Because we are never too derelict and lost in our misery, that God cannot pluck us out, and put us back onto our path again. We need only cry out.
An Old Pastor once told me we could choose how we went, God’s way, or as fish vomit.
When we realize it’s going in the wrong direction, we have permission to get off the boat.
And as I look around and feel so lost, I pray to be swallowed by a fish puppet and spit out again, just to be where Jesus wants me.
Lord let me be fish vomit.
Obediently I must jump ship, for the sake of the little humans I love so dearly. I am the emotional rudder in this family.
And so I will wait for God’s gracious hand to deliver me. Because he will. He always will.
The sea parts,
The manna falls from heaven,
The fish swallows,
The third day dawns,
And we are always delivered.
We can change what isn’t working. We can’t change our old choices or our past, but we can always choose God next. Again and again. Failure after failure. We can always start over again. We can realize we are going in the wrong direction, even if it was our own pride and piousness or misguidedness or whatever other -ness we can come up with that got us there, and start off in the right direction again.
We can give the map back to the Navigator.
And Jesus will meet us there.
Giant fish and all.
I don’t have what I thought I would. I’m not where I want to be.
But I’m thinking you might not be either.
You, with the sad eyes. You post pictures of your kids on Instagram, but none of you, you carefully curate yourself out, because your eyes are sad and hollow. Maybe you’ve lost your joy. You’re doubting. Are you enough? Are these choices wrong? Everything feels so hard. It’s all uphill right now.
Maybe you wish you could go back.
I do. Start from a fresh save. A re-do. Save more money, take a different career path, stay at home, go back to work, whatever it is. Maybe you wish you could change that one thing, choose differently this time.
I do to sometimes. Wish I hadn’t gotten on that one boat in the first place. That one headed for Tarshish when you knew God was sending you to Ninevah.
You laugh and smile and joke. You wake up and Mom. You chauffeur and cook and wife. You do the next thing on the list. You serve and earn and whatever else, but when it’s quiet, when the lens zooms in on you, underneath that smile and veneer are your sad eyes. Too weary to weep. Stuck. While life rages all around. And you feel somehow something is off.
I see yours eyes my friend, and they are beautiful. Just like mine.
Your past choices don’t define you. God will make a way where there is no way. That’s what he does best.
And maybe that’s enough for now. Knowing we aren’t alone. We aren’t the only ones waiting in the belly of a fish in the dark, wondering what life would be like if it had all been different.
You aren’t alone. And neither am I.
Dawn will come. Jesus rises again, and beautiful human, so will you.
We will arrive right where God meant us to be, and our eyes will smile again.
Our joy will be returned to us. We will safely reach our shores. And be better for it. And so will our families.
The enemy will be forced to return all he has stolen.
If only we keep choosing Jesus.
Every step, a step toward him. Even if it’s small. Even if it means stepping overboard into your own Great Reckoning.
Until then dear friend. I’m with you right here. Counting rib bones in our whale while water splashes all over the floor. Praising God that I’m not alone, and am never too lost to be found again.
God knows the way when we don’t. And mightier than the sea is his love for you, and me.