The stages that we as human beings go through when battling the common cold are hysterically funny to me.
Not saying that I am, as a habit, someone who points and laughs when people don’t feel good. I mean… ok, sure, it has probably happened, but I make a solid effort not to with about as much success as your average alcoholic meandering through 45 Napa Valley wineries in a single afternoon — it’s the 45th that gets you.
No, it isn’t the fact of illness that I find entertaining, it is our utterly predictable mannerisms surrounding the illness.
Step 1: Despair. Literally, the world is going to end, probably in flames that lick through my sinuses and then proceed to take out the Pentagon. There is no hope, the millions before me who have survived the common cold were all flukes, because it is a terminal illness and that is why I must have the bendy straw with my juice. Would you really so heartless as to refuse the last wish of the dying?
Step 2: The Perks. I mean, I am not saying you would opt to cough up a lung just so that you could sit and watch 3 seasons in a row of the Jetsons while popping fresh pomegranate seeds, but if you have to find yourself without a lung, you might as well enjoy the ride, amiright?
Step 3: Recovery in the First Degree. This is not full blown recovery, the sort that manages to forget that viruses even exist in God’s big, beautiful green earth. This is the pre-breathing-through-my-nose poetry stage. This is where you get back just enough energy… well, perhaps I should just give you an example of what I’m talking about.
My Boy Quail was one of the last to catch the recent cold and has been a drippy, congested mess, blessing all of us with a series of profoundly loud and juicy sneezes throughout the day and drinking an entire flat of Naked juice within about 36 hours. What is it about men and sneezes, even premature men, that they are incapable of stifling the sneeze and that if you didn’t have eyes on the perpetrator, you could reasonable assume the a T-Rex had wandered aimlessly into your house and inhaled 14 ounces of black pepper? Beside the point. Just in the top ten of “Things I Wonder About”.
So it seemed very encouraging when he and Quail the Youngest embarked on an all-consuming game (by which I mean, every square inch of the house was absorbed in play) of Floor Is Lava. You have perhaps not played this in a while? Are unfamiliar with the rules and regulations? It is quite simple, really. You may not touch the floor. Which means, in practical terms, that all the pillows, blankets, stools, chairs, benches, boxes, a good number of encyclopedias and other household detritus is scattered leaping distance apart and they accomplish challenges along the way. Sometimes they have to fetch a pet cat that is swinging precariously from its collar, slung across a doorknob, sometimes there is a Rubiks cube that must be solved — variety is the spice of life and the key to Calvinball, which is the ideology upon which our games tend to be based. It is sweaty and intense and that leads me as a housewife to accept a heightened degree of clutter, that I might bless the hearts of my young quail.
(I ask for my floors back every Saturday night like clockwork.)
It was perhaps an hour into a recent, energetic round of Floor Is Lava when I called out from the kitchen, “School time!” Because, you see, I made a faulty assumption. Amateur mistake, really. I assumed that if you are recovered enough to jump from the arm of a couch and land with agility upon a folded up prayer shawl 3 feet away, and other similar maneuvers, sustained for a solid 60 minutes, that you are also recovered enough to sit down with a book and pencil.
I know, I know — I am ashamed of myself, too.
I was demonstrably in the wrong, because immediately my Boy Quail turned to me, eyes suddenly bleary, and gave the most gigantic SNIFF — “We’re doing school?” in a weak, very obviously deathly ill sort of voice, while giving me the same look of injured betrayal that infants give you after they receive their first heel poke. What kind of a monster does this poor child have as a mother? The sort that makes him clean the oven with his own toothbrush, while it is still on??! Yes. Exactly that sort of mother. The sort who calls them to school while they still have stuffy noses and then, to add insult to injury, feeds them cake while they work.
I had to laugh, because it seems to be exactly how we respond to God. There we were, happily carrying out His will –see me, out in the community, making meals for the masses, serving at the kids’ school, planning bridal showers, good gracious will be there enough of me to go around?– when His still, small voice points us back to the obedience we have been dodging… it turns out, it is downright easy to love your neighbor, if you get to choose the neighbor. It is often easier to pick up garbage on the side of the road, to spoon soup into the mouths of the homeless, to rock abandoned babies (all good things, mind you) than it is to not make a face when you find a child’s sock in a weird place (but no really, what were you doing??), than it is to smile and welcome your husband home after you’ve had a long day… and mean it. We have energy to burn in things we want to do, things that are rewarding, things that feed us and empower us and fill-in-the-verb us.
But what if God is calling you to keep doing the laundry every day, start to finish, without whining about it? What if the call from the kitchen is actually a call to the kitchen, to stretch out of your comfort zone and learn to make something your husband likes, and to do it cheerfully, for no other reason than to please God? What if the Lord is leading you into all sorts of unobserved obedience –into patient endurance through infertility or menopause, into learning to be wronged without needing immediate vindication, into a life of rejoicing in the Lord when you are lied about and defamed? In Gethsemane, Jesus cried out to His Father (and through Him, to your Father) to take the cup away — please, not this obedience, let there be another! But He didn’t stop there. Take it away, please… but not My will. YOURS.
What if today, God is calling out to you to imitate His Son like this — and obey?