Last night I read a short story by one of my favorite authors, Carole Shields. The story was set in post 9/11 New York and dwelt on the daily details of the woman’s life. Day by day, week by week, the routine never varied. She went through the same inevitable round of lunches, meetings, and household duties, without any change. On the one day she changed things up and walked home by another route she got lost. “Imagine getting lost in your own neighborhood” she thought.
But I am used to people who have a never varying life and I am never sure if I want a similar life or if it would be boring and lifeless. It all depends on the stress levels of my own life at the time. But then I read the last line of the story, “I’d be happy except for my life.”
“I’d be happy except for my life.”
Not only was this character lost in her own neighborhood, she was lost in the mundane details of her life. Certainly her life was without stress, she had no great problems and no complaints to speak of. But underneath the surface all was not as it seemed. The relentless sameness was robbing her of pleasure, joy, anticipation. There was no pain, but also no peace. There was no sorrow, but also no joy.
I’d be happy except for my life….what a sad, even tragic, situation to be in.
It made me realize that I am happy in spite of my life.
These past few years have been to say the least rocky. Surgery on my knee, the death of my sister, the death of one of my best friends, the death of my cat. A year spent chasing an answer to chronic anemia. The closure of two congregations and the loss of the relationship with people I truly like and enjoy. I am currently unemployed and waiting for a new call,despite my best efforts to make that happen quickly. I have known stress and grief. A lot of stress and grief……
But through it all I have also known God and his incredible care. I have known the fulfillment of worship, preaching, writing and praying. And I have known that in it all God has been present. Most of all I have known that God is wise.
It was wise for me to not find the next place I am going until I was no longer sick. It was wise for me to be unemployed for a while and take some time off and rest and recover from the stress. It was wise for me to “become homeless” because I have found such a safe haven here.
Truly the definitive statement about my life is “I am happy, in spite of my life”, and perhaps more than that what I should be saying is, “I am blessed by God, who watches over me day and night and guides my footsteps even in the valley of the shadow…”
I am happy. I am blessed. I am loved. It doesn’t get much better than that.