I like that word.
When I think of the word good, I like to think happy thoughts.
Good is smiling. It’s warm and colorful. It’s happy endings and Christmas mornings. Good is the thing that makes you smile. It’s the light that drives out darkness – the opposite of evil. Good is just so…good.
But sometimes good doesn’t really look like good.
I sat against the back of the pew at church last week and let myself sink into the plush material a little more than usual. I wanted to make myself small, to maybe shy away from the honesty of the message. I wanted to shield myself from the hardness of Truth – a Truth that reveals God to be good.
Even if good doesn’t look good.
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.”
Luke 1: 46-48; 53
We’re now engulfed in the post-Christmas fall out, and I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table surrounded by a holy mess. There’s an open can of dog food sitting next to me, a dirty coffee cup, three dirty glasses, several napkins, and a huge stack of yet-to-be-mailed Christmas cards.
The table is scratched and scarred, an homage to this life I live. It’s well-worn, three out of the four chairs just a few sits from falling apart completely. We need a new table. We keep saying this over and over.
But there’s something about the scarred table that I love.
If I look to my right I see a kitchen counter piled high with crusty dishes. Just yesterday, I mentioned to Lee as I cleaned the house for the eleventy-frillionth time that had someone told me early on in marriage I would spend the better part of the rest of my life cleaning, I might have been tempted to run far away.
Because motherhood doesn’t always feel good.
With Christmas behind me, I’m reflecting on where we’ve come in the last year. In a very real sense, there’s been so much good for our family this year. Good that actually looks and feels good.
But there’s been heartache, too.
This time last year, my father-in-law was swinging his final punch at cancer. He fought valiantly through Christmas so that he could meet his newest granddaughter, and then it was time to let go.
It didn’t feel good.
The way it all went down when he passed away still doesn’t feel good. Not to me. I will never get over not being there when he took his final breath. It doesn’t feel good.
Likewise, this week is exactly three years since Putin signed into law the ban on American adoptions, an event that has continued to shape and mark me. Three years ago, every hope and dream I had for my family hung in the balance, and as I wade through the darkness of that time, the benefit of hindsight allows me to now claim God’s goodness.
But at the time, I couldn’t see beyond my devastation, disappointment, and doubt.
And so it is that I must continually embrace the hard truth that God alone is good. He is the giver of good things, though my eyes veiled by this earth tend to miss it.
Last week, Lee asked me what I would say to a younger version of myself. What would I tell the fresh-faced, wide-eyed, newly married, twenty-two year old Kelli to prepare her for the journey to come? I had to pause and think through that question. It’s not that easy to answer.
Of course, the obvious first response was, “Dear child – you will have four children, and they will be awesome. You will love them immensely. But you will also spend the better part of the rest of your life cleaning up after them. Prepare yourself.”
But that was a lame answer.
After some thought, I finally gave my halting reply: “I’d tell her that God’s goodness doesn’t hinge upon answered prayer and fulfilled dreams. I’d tell her that God is good because He is God, and that is enough. The heartache to come isn’t a stain on God’s goodness, but is rather an opportunity for you to lean into it.”
As we head into 2016, I pray that each one of you has the opportunity to lean in to God’s goodness; to fully embrace the beauty of who He is, simply because He is God.
May He fill you with good things, and may you all laugh at the days to come.