Sometimes bad news hits you out of the clear blue sky. Sometimes you’re minding your own business, blowing bubbles with your daughter on a sunny and unseasonably cool afternoon when the news comes. That’s how it was for me that day. My husband was on a hydraulic lift high above our driveway, inspecting and beginning to repair a leak in our chimney that had severely rotted the wood.
It really wasn’t a total surprise. We knew it was pretty bad up there, but it wasn’t until he began pulling the rotted wood away that he found IT – the thing that changed that day and every day since.
“Hey, babe….,” he called down. “We’ve got a situation here.”
And then he said the word that has since become the most foul expletive we could say in our house: “Termites.”
In all of our anticipating the complexity of the chimney repairs, we never had even considered this possibility. It never crossed our minds. It never once made a blip on our radar. Maybe it should have been at least resting in our subconsciousness as a remote possibility, but it wasn’t. We had no inkling that this was going on, but as he lowered the lift and showed me the pictures he had taken, it was clear that these tiny invaders had been creeping around under our noses for quite some time.
We tried to keep a positive outlook, even as bad news got worse:
First, that they had most definitely worked up from the bottom.
Second, that they had been inside the wall of our garage.
Third, that they had been steadily working on the wall of our freshly repainted family room.
Fourth, that the walls’ sheet rock would need to be ripped out to track their damage.
Fifth, that the carpet would need to be pulled up at least partway to allow for treatment to be done on our concrete slab.
Yes, we tried to stay positive, but it got harder and harder. This wasn’t in our plans. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. And a few days later, as I coughed the deep cough of bronchitis as a result of dry wall dust wafting through the air, I laughed it off the best I could.
“What’s one more thing?”
When we let ourselves think about it, though, it’s frustrating. It is. It gets us down and we feel discouraged and begin to bemoan home ownership and being adults and having to deal with blows like this. We grumble a little and feel sorry for ourselves.
Invariably, though, we feel that way for only a little while before something snaps us back to the realization that this really isn’t that big a deal.
Things could be so much worse. We have a home. We have the means to fix this. Most important of all, we have each other. We are (reasonably) healthy, apart from bronchitis and sniffles and sneezes. This is the epitome of a first-world problem, and in the grand scheme of things happening in the world today, our termite-infested home doesn’t even deserve a ranking.
“This really isn’t all that bad,” we realize, and then we feel guilty for reveling in self-pity when so many people around us have it so much worse than we do.
And I think that kind of perspective is good. We need to keep a healthy, bigger-picture perspective on things. We can see our troubles as a part of a much grander scene, worked seamlessly into the landscape of life. I think that’s one of the things that following Jesus enables us to do. But I don’t think that He ever asks us to walk numbly through life, not feeling the disappointments and frustrations.
I don’t think He requires us to deny that we are sad or struggling or disappointed or frustrated.
Jesus Himself told us that we will have struggles in this world, so it is pointless to protest and claim that we don’t suffer when things go wrong. We do. We will. Things are frustrating. Life is hard.
What I believe Jesus wants us to do in these situations, though, is to look for Him in the midst of it. Immediately after His caveat on life and suffering, He offers hope: “But take heart! For I have overcome the world!”
And that – that light in the darkness – is what enables us to crack jokes and laugh in the middle of such a frustrating situation. Are we happy? No. Are we in denial? Definitely not. But we know that there are bigger things to worry about and other things going on that deserve our emotional energy more than this does.
Termites? Really not that big a deal.