The unusually hot humid evening begged for ice cream. Standing outside the restaurant’s walk-up window, we were handed 4 ice cream cones. That’s when the race began. “Hurry, girls,” my husband said to our two daughters, “it’s so warm out tonight you’ll have to eat fast so your ice cream doesn’t melt.” But it was already too late. The ice cream was beginning to drip faster than our tongues could lick it. Soon, ice cream had dripped on hands, arms and clothes. Our faces were messy from trying to take bigger bites than our mouths could handle. Ruth (age 6) did not like the mess! This ice cream experience was changing from fun to frustrating. Irritation was written all over her ice cream covered face as her complaining and sputtering grew more intense. Carolyn (age 5) watched the whole scene. She was just as messy, if not more so, than her sister. Yet, she calmly stood there…. smiling. As ice cream dripped off her elbow, she said, “Ruth, when you’re messy, you just gotta smile.”
It’s hard to know what to do when life is messy. It’s painful when relationships fall apart. It hurts like crazy when the thing I want so badly seems out of reach. The empty ache that wakes me up in the night feels so hopeless.
So, I try to fix it. Sometimes I can….and sometimes, trying to fix life feels just as frustrating as trying to eat ice cream on a hot summer night faster than it’s melting.
Carolyn was on to something. She didn’t criticize Ruth. She wasn’t saying that Ruth should pretend she wasn’t messy. She didn’t tell Ruth to get over it! She wasn’t saying Ruth should keep her problems to herself and just deal with it.
Carolyn’s comment was much more profound. She wasn’t denying, avoiding or minimizing the mess. She was simply standing alongside her sister – feeling just as uncomfortable – ice cream out of control – sticky – messy……….and smiling.
It’s a peaceful surrender kind-of-a-picture. It’s a reminder to stop trying to do something about something that I can’t do anything about. It forces me to answer the question: Will I trust God IF life turns out how I want it – or – will I trust God?
The heat is there, the hurt is there and the mess is there…but IF I CHOOSE, I can take a deep breath and another bite of ice cream….….and smile.
Sue is the author of Grandma Sue’s Bible Adventures in Rhyme, and has her own blog.
Books available at: www.grandma-sue.com