Bad days happen to all of us.
But it doesn’t feel like that when they strike. It feels like everyone else is doing fine and I’m the only one who is a mess.
And these days don’t always give a neat and tidy warning of when they’ll be arriving. There’s rarely a memo saying to clear my schedule for tomorrow, because I’ll have trouble getting out of bed or that I should be prepared to feel near tears all day.
I had one such day a few weeks ago. But it turned out to be one of my “best” bad days in a while. The truth is that it didn’t feel any different than so many other days like it. But on the other side of it, I can see how the things I chose were brave and kind, and that there was so much grace.
- I listened to myself. I didn’t bully my body into checking off the items on the productive list I’d created for my day. I didn’t bully my heart by saying that I was over-reacting or that these feelings were not real. I listened. My body was tired and needed rest, not more pressure and pushing. My heart was empty and full of grief, needing a kind word not denial and pretending. And instead of fighting what I needed, like I’ve done so many times before, I listened. I put away the to-do list, trusting that it would get done later or that it won’t matter after all. I let myself rest. I let myself have a good cry and didn’t deny the feelings that were there. Just because they weren’t how someone else might respond or how I’ve even responded in the past doesn’t mean they’re not real. They were real. It was okay to feel them.
- I took care of myself. When my daughter isn’t doing well, I don’t bully her into feeling better. I am kind to her and take care of her. I feed her good food. I have her drink water. I give her a nap. I snuggle her on the couch. I give her a warm bath, or I let her skip one if that feels more helpful. It isn’t a day for optimal productivity or rushing around. It becomes a day for slowing down and for kindness. And that day, I felt the Lord whisper to my heart that this was how he wanted to take care of me, if I would let him. He wanted to give me permission for a nap. He wanted to give me permission to make myself a mug of tea and sit quietly to drink it. He wanted to give me permission to sit on the couch and snuggle my girl over a movie. He wanted to give me permission to stay in my pajamas for once and skip a shower, instead of mustering up false sense of strength that I didn’t have. He wanted to give me permission to say yes to the grace that was mine for the taking. It wasn’t giving up to accept this grace, even though it felt like it. It was brave and kind to take care of myself.
- I let someone in. When I’m not doing well, it can be hard to let someone else see me. It can be hard to know what or how to pray when I am empty and out of words. It can be hard to name how weak and empty and small I feel. But I’m convinced this is one of the bravest and best things we can do. And there’s no one size fits all. Some days my prayers look short and simple. Help me, Jesus. Have mercy on me, Jesus. Some days I fill pages of my journal with tears and more words. I might text a friend to pray for me. I tell my husband that today was hard and accept his help. I name the pain, inviting others in, fighting the lie that I am alone.
- I fought the lie that it will always feel this way. This is a hard one. It is a hard one, because on a day when the fears are loud and the emptiness is vast, it is hard to see anything but how awful things are. The feelings are shouting at our souls and when we are already running on empty, it can be a lot to whisper back, it won’t always feel this way. But it is the truth. It won’t always feel this way, even if it feels like this for a while. Even if the worst should be true, and the rest of our days feel this way, when we know Jesus, we are signing up for a day with no more tears and sorrow, for new bodies and new life. It won’t always feel this way.
I wish there was a formula. I wish that the things I’ve told you worked like magic every time a bad day struck. I wish that there were five steps to follow every time you felt small and empty or life threatens to swallow you up, and by tomorrow, you’d feel better.
But the truth is that we are always changing. What we need and what will feed us with change too. And the beautiful thing is that Jesus is better than a formula or steps or a fix. If we ask him for wisdom, he gives it. If we ask him for help, he shows up to share his strength. When I ask him, he helps me know what is good and helpful. And I’m not just talking about the work of believing truth. I’m talking about what’s for dinner and if it is okay to not vacuum. (Eggs and toast, and of course, vacuuming can wait, if you were wondering.)
And on the other side of that day, I was praying about my four words for this year, the ones that Jesus gave me. In the midst of asking for help to be brave and kind, humble and sincere, Jesus let me see that on my worst day, he was answering my prayer. On my terrible day of tears and heartache, he helped me to be brave and kind, not wasting a second of that Hard.
I love these words from Graham Cooke, that I heard for the first time a few years ago, and are still changing how I see bad days into days of grace.
We live by grace. Good days and bad days don’t exist; there are only days of grace. Some days, the grace of God allows you to enjoy life and, other days, endure life. Don’t think about good or bad – just think about grace.
(from Beholding & Becoming)
May we be brave and kind on our best and our worst of days, choosing to see the grace.