12.16.2015

Life is Messy and Beautiful

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/b1/ca/c9/b1cac9464d71c9464a7b5dab0173209e.jpgYou might not remember, but when Facebook first unveiled "News Feed," there was an uproar about your personal wall being seen by all of your friends.  For many, this automatic feature felt way too invasive.  Of course, now we all swear by our Facebook feeds, checking them constantly on our computers at home and using every spare moment to take a peek on our mobile phones. And why not, since it is an unending feed of family pics, celebrations of milestones, and other happiness-inducing content.  The world seems smaller, cozier, and more joyous as a result.

But life is not always beach vacations and first steps and job promotions.  Sometimes life is messy.  Sometimes there is a moment of tragedy, or the long and numbing fallout from it.  Sometimes there is deep sadness, crippling anxiety, and unyielding grief.

Especially for those of us who are young and of means, it can be tempting to try to make all of our lives into one happy Facebook post after another.  Our good health gives us the privilege of not having to deal with pain and discomfort at every turn.  And our good wealth allows us to keep many worries at bay; our financial house will not crumble if something goes wrong, and we can buy little pieces of happiness (or at least stave off the unhappiness that comes from want).

What could be wrong with this?  Isn't this what we all consider to be the good life?  Happiness at every turn, any possible problem that is lurking around the corner can be dealt with, most of life free of worries and fears?  If pleasure and ease is to be had, why would we not use the freedom and resources given to us to have them?  After all, when given the chance, we plan vacations full of joy and experiences, not sorrows and headaches.

I have an even richer life to offer you.  It is called real life, and it is messy but beautiful.  Sometimes by choice and sometimes not, my own life is very full, but that fullness has included many things that do not seem pleasant.  You too have probably, yourself or vicariously through friends and family, suffered through some of the same things.  Losing a loved one far too early.  Bouts of depression, suicidal ideation, or self-injury.  Addiction, incarceration, bankruptcy.  Barrenness, loneliness, divorce.

The seduction of the always happy and always easy life is ever around us.  At the very least, we seek only good surprises, not awful ones.  We want to believe that so long as we do the right things, the life laid out before us is clean and beautiful.  We're taught as kids that if we floss we'll have good oral hygiene, that if we study hard we'll get good grades, and that if we eat right and exercise we'll have good health and feel good.

All of these things are true.  And yet sometimes life is ugly and messy.  Sometimes people who do everything right still fall fatally ill, or don't get the promotion, or find their relationships falling apart.  Life may not need to always break our way, but it's not allowed to be so cruel and capricious, right?

Ah, but sometimes it is.  No one is immune forever, even those of us who, by dint of when and where we were born, live remarkably charmed existences.  Sometimes the ugliness and mess comes crashing in.  Then what?  Do we put on a sunny exterior and try to bounce back from sheer commitment to the power of optimism?  Do we circle the wagons and buffet ourselves from any possibility of veering into a ditch?  Do we stew with cynicism and jealousy and rage?

As for me, I choose to believe in a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful, and I find no contradiction between that being true and evil/mess/ugliness/uncertainty crashing into my world.  Life is messy and beautiful.  May we seize it to the fullest every single day.  
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