Mercy in the Madness

Don’t bother too much about your feelings. —C.S. Lewis

My husband was sprawled on his stomach before the television while talking on his cell phone and fiddling with some cords and buttons on our brand-new Wii. It’s an interesting view, and there were some interesting words paired with it.

The Wii was a Christmas present. After begging us since infancy, our boys finally got some technology to play with. We are a “let’s sit around and play with sewing cards” kind of family. And I don’t mean that in a wholesome, Pinteresty kind of way. I mean that in a “we are so not shelling out cash for this thing with buttons” kind of way.

But, you see, our children were now trying to find all sorts of reasons to play at other kids’ houses, and I had a vision that if we didn’t buy them one sort of video game we would never see them again except at feeding time.

So, we bought the Wii. And then, it didn’t work.

There is just nothing worse than committing to gadgetry only to have it fizzle on you. How anticlimactic. How rude. We had peeled away forty yards of plastic wrapping and assembled and read directions—and all the while our two boys sat and watched us from the couch, quivering like strung-out puppies waiting for a treat.

“It’s ready? Ready now? When? What is this ‘soon’? Like…one minute? How about now? Or now? But when? JUST LET ME AT IT!”

The husband is an engineer, so his assembling procedure is slightly more meticulous than mine. I would have just backed away slowly when the Wii didn’t work. Brian is much braver. He called customer service.

I stomped through breakfast, slamming down Cheerios and juice. The boys hunched over their bowls like tiny vultures in Star Wars pajamas.

I speak of customer service in hushed tones because it is so fearsome to me. I hate calling customer service. There is a lot of waiting and “Your call is important to us,” which is a big, fat lie.

Then jargon. So much jargon. They say stuff to me like, “You just put the defibrillator unit on overdrive and push the supercomlink Komodo dragon five times and it should work, ma’am.” Then I cry.

With Brian, there was no crying. Just a rather terse phone call with a few “uh huhs” and “yeps” and then, bam. It worked. All he had to do was push a red reset button on the back of the unit. And lo, the heavens opened, and it was good. Thank you, reset button!

We spent the rest of the day as any family should after Christmas, substituting fudge and tortilla chips for all the four food groups, and trying to get to level five on Star Wars Lego. I was Princess Amidala, and I only ran in circles and light sabered plants.

But, as can happen when one is firmly wedged into a couch for hours on end, we all got a bit… cranky. In fact, bedtime for my two over-stimulated, slothful cherubs was an exercise in crying and despair. “Charlie got to play the Wii longer than meeeee!” wailed Henry. Charlie countered with a highly decibeled and literate, “NUH-UH I DIDN’!” And Brian and I wondered at our life choices.

I went to bed early that night. I had the blues. It was cold and dark, our tree was empty, I hadn’t eaten a salad in over two weeks, and my children had turned into feral creatures after the sun went down. Everything seemed rather awful.

As I curled up in my pajamas, I stared at the ceiling and prayed, “Tomorrow, right? Can you help tomorrow be a better day? So I won’t yell and they won’t yell and it will all be good. Right?” I decided to rest in Lamentations 3:22-23 myself right into tomorrow:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Sometimes I think of Jesus as a spiritual pill to administer, one that will erase symptoms after a good night’s rest. It isn’t exactly wrong. Jesus does heal. He does rejuvenate. He does take away pain. So I prayed and was very sure that the next morning would be better.

And lo, I woke up. And nope. It was not any better.

For some reason, my sour mood now seemed to be taking up real estate in my head and in my children’s heads, and even I dare say, the dog’s fuzzy little head. Usually Hosmer is all waggy tailed and “YOU ARE THE BEST I LOVE YOU EVERY MINUTE” with me, but this day he just glared at me and refused to fetch.

The cats were in on this too, but they always act that way.

I stomped through breakfast, slamming down Cheerios and juice. The boys hunched over their bowls like tiny vultures in Star Wars pajamas. Even their chewing sounded grumpy. Outside, it was overcast. Inside was too. In short, we were all doomed.

I certainly didn’t feel privy to any new mercies. I kind of wanted to give my day a good thump, in hopes that my mercies would light up and start working correctly.

What I wanted was for God to be my universal reset button.

God, I am pretty sure, wanted something entirely different. Such as:

1. My biblical knowledge to go beyond sticking verses on my woes like spiritual Band-aids.
2. My feelings to stop demanding those Band-aids fifteen million times a day.
3. His very, very best for me. Of course.

I know feelings aren’t inconsequential. After all, God created them in the first place. But that day I think I was misunderstanding “mercy.” I looked at mercy as something soft and fluffy, lofted at me from above. I wanted mercy to wrap me in a happy glow.

When my kids first started playing our time-sucking Wii game, they kept mixing up who had which remote. So, one child would be wildly swinging away with no results, while the cursor still managed to move all over the screen.

We didn’t understand this phantom movement until we understood the controllers a bit better. It might be a bit of a stretch, but I think tbe whole mercy thing works the same way. We aren’t in charge of how it moves. But it sure can be disconcerting to watch. God’s mercies are there in the midst of the chaos, no matter what I do, or feel, or believe.

Eternity, restitution, endless heapings of love. Sunrises. Puppies. The best listening. The best plans. Our peace. These are the mercies enacted upon us.

These mercies are new every morning, and every night, and our feelings have nothing to do with it.

Once I realized that, I felt a whole lot better.

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About the Author

Dana Bowman is a wife, mother, teacher, writer, and runner. She has been published in numerous magazines, and is the proud author at Momsieblog.com. Her book, Bottled: How to Survive Early Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press, is now available. One day, she hopes to master the skill of making sure all dessert apportionment is completely equal.

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