About three weeks ago I was on a plane headed home, and the woman next to me nonchalantly said, “Texas is, like, number 2 in the nation for flu cases.”
I was like:
Ten days later my kids were sick. Then Morgan. Five days after that it was my turn.
They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you, so I’m pretty sure that means this is all Plane Woman’s fault.
(I hope she’s HAPPY and WELL. #blessitall)
So Finley and I were sick in bed together for five days. We are still sort of dragging ourselves around like zombies, though, because we are pitiful and cannot kick this nasty cough. Today I walked around Target completely leaned over on the cart like it was a gurney for my upper body. My cough sounds like I’ve smoked two packs of cigarettes a day since I was two years old while also working in a coal factory.
I am in a Phoebe-with-her-sick-voice kind of way.
On the first day of The Sickness, Finley and I watched 236 hours of Fixer Upper, because I was still strong enough to say NO to the show she really wanted to watch : Barbie.
On the second day of The Sickness, Finley and I watched 100 more hours of Fixer Upper, and then I lost the will to fix and up, and I let her turn on Barbie. I think the cough syrup made me do it. Barbie is as bad as you would expect: everyone is obsessed with glitter, sprinkles, and Barbie and Ken are disgustingly perfect. I suspect most of the damage done to my daughter’s once-balanced view of women and their purpose in the world will get worked out in therapy in about twenty years. Hopefully she’ll still be a #jesusfeminist despite all this Barbie malarchy. (Serious side eye looking at you, Fin.)
Needless to say, on the third day of The Sickness, we went back to HGTV shows. We watched Restored by the Fords (our new favorite!!) and some more Fixer Upper (we were so desperate for diversion and Barbie was out of the question). But then we couldn’t do one more minute of design anything, so we watched the movie The Queen of Katwe, which I had seen but Finley had not.
In the middle of one scene, in which a young girl lives in a dirt floor hut and can’t afford to go to school, it suddenly struck my empathetic child that these people were really, really poor. All that Fixer Upper highlighted the difference between the two worlds we had immersed ourselves in while we lay in our feverish state. So we talked about how more people in the world live in poverty than live like we do, with enough food to eat, and a house and cars and electric power tools used to update the tile in their new Laundry Room Palace.
That’s when she asked me this: Are rich people evil?
And I broke a little inside. Because this is what we want to do all the time as humans. We want to be able to look at the outside of a person or situation and instantly know what’s on the inside. We see the fixer uppers no one will fix, and the Malibu dream homes right next to them, and we long for it to make sense. Adam and Eve ate from that tree of knowledge of good and evil, and humans have spent every day since then trying to understand what it means.
How much is enough, anyways? Who is rich, exactly? What about debt? How do we know how to be “good”? Who is “bad”? Why do bad things happen to seemingly good people, and good things happen to seemingly bad people? Why do cheaters sometimes win and get away with it? Why are honest people oppressed, kicked out, and abandoned? Why are we sick? Why doesn’t Jesus heal us?
When will everything be made right and just?
We languished in bed for another day, and I kept thinking about our talk about poverty. I thought of all the mamas in the world who do not have the luxury to lie in bed until they feel better. I thought of the children who do not have access to the medicine they need. I thought of all our church does to help ease the pain in the lives of the needy in our city. And I grappled with the truth that no matter how much we do, there is always more we can do. And so we do more.
Then I got even sicker. (Or, sickah, as Beyonce would say.)
So often in this world, things get worse before they get better.
My sons came home from school on day six of The Sickness, and one of them said this to me: “Mom, kids at my school do really bad things.”
I asked him what kinds of things, and he told me what he knew, proving again that middle school is the absolute worst and hardest place to be. We talked about how we are all like sheep without a shepherd, and that God had to send Jesus because we really can’t be good without a Savior. I want my son to love those kids and be alight in their lives, but I also want him to know he shouldn’t do the things they’re doing. It’s confusing to be a teenager in this modern world, and even more confusing to be a teenager’s mom.
Jesus taught that all of the law and the prophets could be summed up in the commandments to love God most of all and to love the people around you more than you love yourself. Loving God and others is the absolute hardest thing we will ever do with our lives, it is the mountain that must be thrown into the sea and the camel that can pass through the eye of a needle. Love is not supposed to be easy, and it’s not supposed to make sense all the time. It’s just supposed to be at the center of our hearts and wills all the time. Jesus proved that He could live what He preached by obeying God all the way to Calvary. Now it’s our turn.
The view from my sick bed is just the twenty feet from my face to the wall across the room. But between here and there is an ocean of open water where God is showing up these days. We’re all a bunch of fixer uppers, aren’t we? All God wants is to heal us and show us how to love more, bigger, better.
Being sick is not the best thing that can ever happen to you. But it’s not the worst either.
I’m floating somewhere here in the middle, together, with everyone around me. And I’m calling it a good place to be.