Broken Joy

So, Brenin broke his collar bone three weeks ago.

The timing wasn’t ideal (though I guess a broken bone is never really ideal…). It came in the midst of a church-wide fast, so both of us were feeling more vulnerable than usual as we depended on God to fill our lack in the areas we chose to fast. On top of that, I was 9 weeks pregnant, which meant I was in the thick of first-trimester hormones, morning sickness, and exhaustion. 

When Brenin called to tell me he had broken his clavicle in 3 places (which we’d later find out was actually 4, and which the doctor called the “worst clavicle break he’s ever seen” after surgery), I politely asked if he was okay, and when he hung up and went in to the doctor, I took a giant donation bag of clothes from my room and chucked it as hard as I could at the wall, screaming at a calculated volume: loud enough to express my anger, quiet enough not to disturb nap time.

Not my finest hour, but I was already feeling so worn down that this felt like my breaking point.

When Brenin came home, arm in a sling but a face exuding optimism in spite of the pain, I said, “I’m fifty percent mad at you and fifty percent compassionate. By tonight the number will go down to zero percent mad, but you’ll have to give me some time to get there.”

I was embarrassed and ashamed that I felt any anger at all. I so badly wanted to be the wife who already had a roast braising in the oven and who welcomed her husband with warmth and words of healing, ready to dote on his every need. Instead, I was considering how hard I could hit his healthy shoulder without breaking it. But as I’ve learned, it does me no good to beat myself up for my emotions. I tried to just acknowledge them and move on. By the time we situated a throne of pillows for him on our bed and I looked at his poor broken shoulder propped up and balancing a bag of frozen peas, the last bit of anger diminished and I finally just felt tired and sad. 

The next morning I set my alarm extra early knowing that I wanted some time to process things with Jesus before I got to work making breakfast and caring for my broken husband and potty-training-toddler. 

My time with Him started out as a bit of an assault—the whole “Seriously God?!” type of prayers. But then I started asking questions. I wanted to know why this happened. Was it because we were spiritually vulnerable during the fast? Was it a lesson God was trying to teach us? Was it the enemy working against us? I needed to know.

But after demanding answers, I felt a question directed at me deep in my spirit.

“Even if you know the answers to your question, will that change the way I’m asking you to respond?”

I could feel my tight grip release as I pondered that question. It really didn’t matter why this happened, because no matter who or what allowed Brenin to break his collar bone that day, the way I want to respond to trial is the same: joy, gratitude, and praise. 

I’m not talking about optimism, necessarily. I don’t mean that I want to pretend a trial isn’t actually happening, or that it isn’t as hard as it actually is. When I say I want to respond to trial out of joy, I mean the type of joy that knows God is in control and we are in His loving hands. And even though I don’t feel thankful about paying for a surgery, seeing my husband in pain, and dealing with the little inconveniences along the way, I am thankful that God always grows and shapes us in the times we’re most vulnerable and dependent on Him. 

Even though I’m not feeling joy, I’m choosing it. I’m filling my home with music that speaks truth to our souls. I’m dancing in the living room with my daughter even though all I want to do is collapse on the bed. 

And then when I do give in and collapse, I’m trying to frame my mindset around gratitude rather than self-pity. It’s no easy task, but it’s better than the alternative.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;
 come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.
 It is he who made us, and we are his;
 we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
 and his courts with praise;
 give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
 his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100

Have you heard of The Corner Room? I’ve been loving this band lately–they’ve been sort of saving my life by filling my quiet, angry, and weak moments with truth (and folksy charm!). They sing the Psalms word-for-word, so it helps you memorize scripture without even realizing it. They’ve been on repeat in the mornings around here. Check them out if you’re looking for something new!

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