Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Good Life

Something seems a little off.  Our thermostat tells us that the room temperature is 68, but it feels like a chilly 68.  A message reading "system malfunction - please call technician for maintenance" confirms that we have a problem with our furnace.

This is the third minor issue in a couple of days.  First it was the driver's side windshield wiper that flew off while clearing the wetness from my view.  Next we had a problem with the chain connecting the handle to the flush valve on our toilet.  And now we're having some difficulty with the furnace.  These are just small annoyances, but enough to rouse a little anxiety, especially after a day of consuming higher-priced food and gas and hearing (again) about the impacts of climate change and political upheaval in the Middle East.  I've been working on praying about the small things - the things that deep down, I'm not sure really matter to God - and also trying to model this prayer attitude for my children, so I ask them to pray about the furnace.

Natalie's enthusiastic response:
"Dear God, please help us to fix the windshield, and help us to have a good life.  Amen!"

I smile.  Where does she come up with these ideas?

I ask Natalie what it means to have a good life.

"In a good life, bad things don't happen."

At age 3, Natalie already shares my perspective; often, my thoughts, words, actions, and prayers reflect this view - the view that good is just the absence of bad.  Frequently, I make choices in an effort to avoid the bad, but in the process, I think I miss out on a lot of good.  When I get stuck there, in that place of being scared of all that in my opinion, is bad, I'm living a life of not doing much of anything at all.  And if I don't take action, if I just say no to spending money or potentially offending people or failing at a new endeavor, I may miss opportunities to deepen a friendship, speak the truth, or find a new love.

The good life evokes images of large homes, fancy cars and clothes, impeccable health, career success, educational opportunity, vacations to exotic destinations, and intelligent, well-behaved children.  It looks secure and happy.  But is a good life truly built upon these things?  When I can quiet the urging of TV ads, facebook, and even my own misguided thinking, I discover that the good life must include some bad things to actually be...good.  Who can resist the wonder that rises up inside upon hearing stories of a reconciled relationship, a homeless man now able to provide for his own financial needs, a drought-stricken community that now has clean water, a back-of-the-pack runner who wins her race?  Are all of these reasons enough to make me wish for the bad?  I'm not there yet (i.e. I really want my warm house back without needing to pay a service technician!).  But remembering this makes me feel open to the possibility that something good can be birthed from something that, upon first glance, has the appearance of something bad.

This blog was birthed out of some decisions made after an experience with our old, broken-down dishwasher.  And I love what's been happening in me as a result of this blog.  Writing is so life-giving to me.  Like a tall glass of cold water after the longest marathon training run on the hottest summer day; right now, it's exactly what I need.  Thank goodness for the possibilities and opportunities presented by the broken.

What thoughts come to mind when you dream about the good life?  Is it a life that feels distant or unattainable, or could it be that the life you're living right now - the one that includes the monotony of laundry and snotty-noses, or the struggle of caring for aging parents, or the never-ending deadlines - is actually the good life?  Have you seen something good, or even life-changing, result from a difficult situation?  I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Well put, Lori. This is a great post. I especially love the line: "Thank goodness for the possibilities and opportunities presented by the broken." How true.

    I too hold similar ideals about "the good life." And I am definitely not wishing for "the bad" !! but when I think about this the phrase comes to mind "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." And many times alot of that life is good. I guess you could also say, "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life." Really a great post. I was happy to read it. Good luck with the furnace!!!

  2. I'm with you Lori. I just blogged about something along these lines last week. When Jared died, a certainty that I had about lots of things, about God about prayer, etc. died too. I have since become pretty comfortable living with the questions, but I do wonder if the certainty will ever return...or even if it's supposed to. I read an interview with Robert Gelinas (the jazz theologian) the other day and this is what he says about our encounter with sin and sadness in the world. "To sing the blues is to embrace the cross of Christ and the cross he calls us to bear. In the process we realize that Jesus not only redeems us from our sin and sadness, he also actually redeems our sin and sadness." He says that by singing the blues in this way, we don't "waste any pain." Though I think that it is the theology of many, I don't believe that God means to save believers from all evil/bad/sad things. Though I don't fully understand it (not even close), I do believe that God longs for redemption, healing and wholeness for all.

  3. Lori, first time I've read your blog... forgot you had one... but I will definitely be watching it from now on. Thought provoking. Thanks. I have always loved the Scripture verse from Romans... All things work together for good for those who love God. I think that all things do work for good... even the bad.. if the person seeks Truth and Love... and seeks to become better. Abuse...pain... sickness.... even death... are awful things that are often just wrong. But they are unavoidable. Life is full of the good and the bad. The difference is in moving on... learning from... and being sure to NOT allow the "bad" to destroy what is good. But to allow the good to shine through... to grow. Somehow we need to embrace the reality of our world...what is beautiful and what is ugly... what is painful and tragic, and what is joyous and celebratory. And in all of it, we can find life-giving experiences that draw us closer to Truth. Bad things do happen... we don't allow them to identify who we are. There is a quote from Professor Dumbledore that I love..."It is not our abilities that identify who we are, it is our choices."
    Hope your furnace gets fixed easily...and quickly. Until then, here's a blanket for you.... peace.

  4. That post was me.. Malinda Clatterbuck... didn't mean to be anonymous...

  5. Thanks so much for posting comments. I struggled to finish this could write pages and pages on this topic, and still wouldn't have it figured out! I really appreciate your insights, especially in knowing at least some of each of your stories. And I'm grateful for the ways that each one of you has provided encouragement and laughter to me during some rough points on my journey...praying for those life-giving friends and experiences for each of you tonight.