Back before I really started using this blog as my main source of sharing bits of writing, I published this post on my photography blog. Yesterday, it came back to memory during a Bible study on Colossians I have been taking part in. We were covering the well-known verses in chapter 3 on marriage, parenting, and submission in our relationships. As I sat and listened to the hearts of my friends as we all worked to unearth fresh life from often over-quoted and under-lived scriptures, the words from my experience well over a year ago resurfaced in my mind. “Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?” I must admit I left my friends yesterday a bit discouraged, realizing how very little of this I have figured out and how quickly I choose “right” over “happy.” Why is the lie of what life should look like so much easier to buy into than the simplest of truths? Today rereading the post, I thought if I needed to see what God in Mercy and Kindness showed me in the mirror of my life all those months ago, there may be someone else who could appreciate the lesson at my expense. So with all hope, it won’t need to be learned at your own.
To staying on course,
Some battles are birthed out of the slightest of strayed steps. Derailment doesn’t often wave a flag announcing its swift approach. You could be moving along at a decent pace, and in a breath be airborne, wheels having left tracks, bracing for inevitable impact. A few weeks ago, we had a Sunday morning at our house scattered with those wayward feet; a snooze button pressed just once more, a duel of wills over a child’s breakfast, a gas tank left on “E” and without warning or purpose it all began to unravel. Frazzled and late, we pushed and huffed and stomped out the door to church. Yes, church. That particular day we had to drive two cars as one of us was committed to serve during second service, so he in the vehicle on fumes and me in with the now sniffling, post-tantrum child, threw gears in reverse away from home, fully aware of the shaky, uneven tracks beneath us.
It is a 17-minute drive from our driveway to church parking lot, and it is safe to say I was stewing over the morning’s events for 15.5 of those minutes. Knowing all the while, the path to peace, the way back onto steady track, lay within my own hands. Hands that at the moment were clenched tight and tense around the driver’s wheel, as if straining to steer much more than the SUV I navigated. Hands that could so quickly pull away from another’s, in a fit of self-righteous animosity. As thoughts flurried about my mind, ‘How did we get here?’ ‘This is not how today was meant to go,’ the simple question arose from the mess.
“Do I want to be happy, or do I want to be right?”
Sigh. My grip loosens ever so.
If one were to look back over my life, my marriage, would the landscape be littered with the debris of derailment after derailment all in the name of being right, being heard, being without fault? Years and countless train wrecks later, it is on this Sunday morning, this 17-minute drive, I have a choice to make. Brace for impact, and choose to brood and blame my husband, my kids for this latest less than perfect. Or release those tightened fists and allow my pride to fall through open fingers, choosing instead joy. Seeing it in type, the choice isn’t even really a choice, but we all know the living, breathing story is hardly ever that clear. Why is that? How is this even a struggle to decide – bitterness or happiness? When has choosing to be right ever made me happier? How much laughter has indignation ushered unto my lips? Where is joy when the path chosen is wide enough only for one and the bitter I carry with me?
“Do I want to be happy, or do I want to be right?”
The church in view around the bend, my decision settles. Still tardy for service, we unload and little legs scurry to keep my pace. I don’t say much to their sweet faces, but the few words of forgiveness we exchange are enough as we jog across the asphalt to the open doors of the church. I know by way of the tender eyes and loving grip around my arm, they have already forgotten, their hearts too small yet to hang onto the ugly. Having stopped in route to remedy the empty gas tank, the final passenger to our train rushes in behind as the kids are checking into their classes. “I’ll take them,” he offers. “You go find us seats.” No time to tell him of the 17-minutes or of my choice.
An usher leads me to two seats up front, and as I settle in, I close my eyes. I whisper prayer. Again, I choose. He slips in from the aisle next to me and exhales, having survived the last 45-minutes of rocky terrain. And as derailments are born from the smallest of missteps; it is the simplest of gestures that can steer us back to safety. This day, I chose joy. I slipped my arm through his and felt pride fall to the floor below. We exchanged looks and a sentence, and again it is enough. Bitterness and resentment denied in place of humility and submission to each other. And by choosing joy, joy is found.
We went on to enjoy one of the most beautiful days our family has ever shared. The impact of a simple acknowledgement, apology or act of surrender hit me that afternoon as we watched the kids run and play at our favorite picnic spot. From my place on a quilt in the middle of giggles and conversation with my love, I saw clearly how the day could have gone if history had repeated itself and joy was left out in the cold while being “right” became the path chosen. This moment, this gift of a day would have never been written, and happiness would have been passed over once more. But isn’t every day the opportunity to choose? Isn’t every situation, circumstance, trial, a chance for us to make the change and the choice for joy, or the choice to allow the wheels to fall off? I can’t say there are no more derailments in my path, but I can’t help but think the effect of joy chosen strengthens the very tracks beneath us, lowering risk for catastrophe, and motivating us to get on rolling.