Grace Enough for Today
I was minding my own business yesterday when a near concussion from a frozen chicken put everything into perspective. I had my head in the freezer, which was, evidently and unknowingly, leaning forward at a slight angle. I was not even thinking of chickens actually. I was thinking about beef as we had just ordered a side of it from a local meat packing plant, and I was putting it away in said freezer, rearranging the various animals at the same time. It’s amazing how many types of meat can accumulate when you’re not paying attention and your husband is somewhat of a grill boss. I had three types of fish, no less than three chickens, a forgotten ham bone for making beans at some point, and a pork roast, all of which I relocated to the top of the freezer, thinking I’d group the non-beef meats all in one place. It seemed like a good plan until the precarious position of the freezer suddenly deposited several of these frozen items onto my head as I was bent over arranging the beef on a lower shelf. The chicken did the most damage.
While I was recovering on my bed, thinking how funny the whole thing both was and wasn’t, it occurred to me that this is so much like life. We are simply going along, living, paying attention to mundane, everyday things that need our attention, when suddenly we are hit out of nowhere with a very real, very painful occurrence, and we are forced to pay attention to it because it hurts; it hurts a lot. Let me explain. I have been a little preoccupied with everyday things. We are remodeling our kitchen, and cabinetry and the color of countertops were at the forefront of my thoughts. I had achieved the perfect triangle out of an old ranch kitchen that had previously not been a working triangle at all. I’d been admiring my work, picking out backsplash and imagining what I was going to put on the new open shelving when the frozen chicken thing happened- both literally and figuratively. Our family was hit out of nowhere with a very painful situation, and the very nature of it had forced us to pay attention to it.
The thing about the unexpected is it really messes with the tidy little lives we had hoped to be living.
We see others being hit by frozen chickens, and while we try to sympathize and help when we can, we are truly happy that our own chickens are staying neatly on the top shelf. But that’s not really accurate, is it? Frozen chickens do not store neatly. While the steaks and roasts and even the little cylinder packages of ground beef seem to fit perfectly together, frozen chickens are always a hazard, and we all have them. Because every life has its troubles, its unexpected turns. Some have a more difficult road, no doubt, but we all have trials and grief. Because affliction will happen. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you walk through fire…” Not “if,” but “when.” Even though you don’t plan that moment when a frozen chicken smacks you upside the head, though it’s never scheduled or invited or hoped for, it still comes, and in the aftermath, you simply must attend to the pain of it.
Because affliction has a way of disorienting you.
When you are caught in it, there is no other thought but survival. You cannot think of what is for dinner, or what plans you’re making for the holidays. You are not concerned with your wardrobe or your social engagements, or even the necessary work there is to get done. As the pain of the trial threatens to consume you, there is no thought at all except how to escape it and survive. I know because I have been hit by frozen chickens before. When suffering and sorrow and bad news have come my way, I have shut off everything except that instinct to just survive.
It’s difficult to remember what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, because you thought you were doing it, then the unthinkable happened. Clearly, you must have done something to cause it. Clearly, you got off on the wrong path somewhere. Frozen chickens don’t happen to people who are doing things right, do they? That is what my mind is telling me, some version of the prosperity gospel, that although I don’t believe, I still find myself thinking at times. In reality, affliction is a certainty in every life, and it hurts so very badly. How do you navigate that hurt? Although knowing God promises to use it for good, while you’re clinging desperately to that hope, what do you do? (Gen. 50:20)
First, It’s okay to pause and consider the hurt of it.
After that frozen chicken came crashing down upon my head, I had to lay down for a bit and just absorb the pain. That is the nature of suffering, I suppose. It takes a lot of energy, so you find yourself feeling exhausted just by the grief of it. Remember, you’re only human, and God does not need you running around, injured. There is a season for everything, even “a time to weep” (Ecc. 3:4). I struggle with allowing myself that time, feeling that I am truly accomplishing nothing. Doesn’t God need me to be doing something? But even arranging meat in a freezer can feel like an overwhelming task when you are hurting from life’s frozen chickens, and it’s easy to feel completely worthless. Arranging that meat had felt like something I could do, so being incapacitated by falling fowl was cruelly humiliating. I felt so weak, but God, in abundant grace, understands our weakness. He is not shaking a stick, urging you to get up and get over it. Rather, he is kindly and attentively listening to every heartache.
And as you are pouring out your heartaches, don’t underestimate the power of a good cry.
I am not much of a crier. In fact, my husband still tells people, 30 years after the fact, that he cried at our wedding, and I did not. Tears do not come easily for me, but there is a healing quality to their emotional expenditure. I gave in to tears after the frozen chicken experience, and I couldn’t believe how much better I felt about everything. Because I had been holding the pain of our family’s trial deep inside, the weeping that began with the chicken soon encompassed the scope of the situation we were enduring, and there was sweet release in grieving over it. And God, in great mercy, is tenderly and patiently catching every tear you shed. As Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” After that weeping, nothing had changed about the circumstance. We were still neck deep in it, but I had allowed myself to really grieve it, and that grieving had deepened my communion with the “man of sorrows,” the one who is “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). This reminded me that I was not alone in my suffering.
So that, as I was weeping, I could ask for help from my brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the aftermath of the fallen chicken, I had to accept help from my sweet husband, who was worried I might actually have a concussion from the whole experience. Help is not easy to ask for or accept, for most of us, but it is the nature of being in the body of Christ. We’re supposed to serve and be served. This not only blesses the one in need, but it blesses the ones meeting the need as well. I have 4 friends who I turn to for prayer in my most difficult times. I share with them some of my greatest sorrows, and they see me at my lowest point. They know those things that overwhelm my heart at times (Ps.61:2), and I am privileged to walk with them through their stuff as well. It’s funny how sharing another’s burden can make your own feel lighter somehow.
Somehow, that sharing helps you to begin the healing process.
Now, by healing I do not mean moping, though I admit a lot of times it starts that way. Eventually, however, you need to get to the business of applying the ointment of God’s precious word. You need to soak in the Spirit empowered meditation of the person of Christ. Healing comes through the gospel. His death brings meaning to the pain. His resurrection and life promises an end to the hurt. And in light of that promise, you can move ahead with other things in life.
Because, remember, although the frozen chicken has commanded your attention, you still have a freezer full of meat to take care of. Life goes on.
As I lay there recovering from my near concussion, I realized it was almost Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, and I had barely considered it. By this time, I usually have two turkeys in the freezer (which I will not be putting on the top shelf!) and several cans of pumpkin stowed away in the pantry. I’ve usually bought the festive napkins and put out the fall decor- but not this year. This year, I have been in survival mode. But finally, after allowing myself to acknowledge the pain of the trial, after grieving for all the hurt of it, after asking for help and meditating on the gospel, I could finally lay it down at the feet of the Savior and turn my attention to the rest of living. Not that the frozen chicken or the subsequent tender spot is forgotten. It’s just that there are blessings to be had in the midst of their lingering hurt. There are turkeys to fry and wood fires to be mesmerized by. As I am writing this blog, I am watching a rather magnificent sunrise reveal itself behind the hills in front of my house. Morning is coming, and as it does, the shadows of night are dissipating and all the glories of this new day are becoming evident in color and light.
And I want to bask in the grace I have been given for this day, because it is enough for today and whatever frozen chickens that may come my way.