the four letter F word
There is a certain four letter F word that I hate. It gets used way too often in my world, and it sounds so ugly ringing in my ears.
When someone asks, "How are you?" the response fine feels like a cover-up to me. I know that in our culture we often just ask a casual question, expecting a casual answer - and maybe that's okay - but I think we answer fine so often that it becomes a mask we show to others and even to ourselves. "I'm doing fine," we say, so we can keep going, not slowing down, not letting anyone in, pretending like our world is of superior quality, just like the definition of the word. To me, though, fine is a facade. When people ask how I am doing, I may say, "wonderful," "okay," or even "not so good today." But I rarely say,"fine."
The usage I abhor, however, is when believers try to use fine to cover up the broken areas of life instead of acknowledging them for what they are.
I did this when Katie was first diagnosed. I said, "Yes, she has cancer but it is treatable and we live in America where we have healthcare and it's fine." I said that F word so much that I believed it. And I never allowed myself to acknowledge the pain of it all. Even though I was hurt and sad and questioning God, I kept saying, "It's fine. We're doing fine. It's all fine." Well, let me tell you, cancer is not fine. Chemotherapy is not fine. Hospitalizations and radiation and surgeries and losing your hair at 13 years old is not fine! Neither are drunk drivers, drownings, suicide, hurricanes, infertility, or infidelity. Nor sprained ankles, colicky babies, or unkept promises. It is all broken. All of it. It is the terrible brokenness of this world - directly related to sin and Satan - and it is NOT FINE.
Can God redeem it? Yes.
Can we trust him as we walk through it? Yes.
Can I do my human best to look beyond the ugliness of it? Yes.
But it is not fine.
I spent most of my life believing that, as a Christian, I should not be angry, frustrated, complaining, or negative. I should always count my blessings and look at the positive and make the most of it. I believed that certain emotions were negative - even sinful - and since I wanted to be a positive, Godly person, I avoided all such emotions. While I still believe that seeing the good is the root of gratefulness and that it is a great trait to be flexible in life when things don't quite go your way, I have also learned that it is okay to acknowledge when life is not what you had hoped. Even in the little things. For instance, saying, "I didn't get to go out to dinner and that upsets me," is much more honest than sullenly plodding up the stairs muttering, "It's fine." Because it isn't fine. It stinks. It's a bummer. I can deal with it, but it isn't what I hoped.
When applied to the bigger areas of life, fine gets even uglier. When Katie was hospitalized in Cincinnati, my family was planning to travel to Cincinnati for the weekend to celebrate Daniel's birthday with us. My sister called in tears because her child had a fever, and she potentially would not get to join us. As I was talking with her on the phone, she kept saying, "I know, it's fine. It will be fine. It's fine." I finally interrupted her to say, "NO. It is NOT fine. It is awful. It is not what you wanted, not what you hoped for. We can get through it. We can figure it out. But it is not fine."
I know the pushback. James says in his book of the Bible, "Consider it joy when you encounter various trials" (James 1:2). Joy in trials. That means pretend, right? Fake it till you make it? Nope. This verse does not say that the trial itself is joyful. Or that there is no pain in it. Or that I'm glad I have it. James is not saying that all the crap in this world is okay. He says that there can be joy because we know that the trial will produce something in us if we let it. Something strong. Something incredible. Something redemptive. Something eternal. I can find joy because I can learn to see from the other side of it. From God's perspective. From the place where he says, "See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland" (Isaiah 43:19). When I read this, I hear God say, "Look. Look at what I can do. I am not going to waste this."
But nothing, nothing, about that means it is okay.
More and more, I believe that verbalizing... pretending... perhaps even trying to believe... that all this brokenness is fine is a way of giving Satan some ground. When I refuse to acknowledge the pain that the enemy has brought into the world and into my life... when I try to convince myself this is somehow okay or that I should passively receive it... do I give the enemy some of my turf? Does he want me to believe that all the ugly in this world is fine? When God created the world, he looked at it in its perfection and declared it "good" (Genesis 1:31). But he does not look at all that is evil and distorted in this world and call it "good." So why should I look at the same brokenness and say that it's okay? If it isn't fine with God, why do I pretend it's fine with me?
I will not settle. This is not fine. God has something better planned. He will make it good again. Restoration. Redemption. "The old earth had disappeared . . . and the one sitting on the throne said, 'Look! I am making everything new!'" (Revelation 21:1, 5).
As I learn to align my perspective with God's, I refuse to lower my expectations to what this world has to offer. Ours is a broken world and that is not okay with me.
There is something fine and this ain't it.
God, you love righteousness and hate wickedness. So let those of us who love you, Lord, hate evil also. (Psalm 45:7, 97:10)
*Reposted from 9/14/2018