Small Sorrows

That nick on your dining room table. The way your carpet bunches near the corner. Over there, next to your cookbooks? Yeah, that’s a crack in the counter top that seems to get wider every day.

Your car wheezes to life instead of roaring. Every time the weather changes, you or your kids get sick – sometimes all of you. A piece of siding wants to fall off your house and crush your azaleas, which probably deserve to be crushed given how sad they look.

A hangnail.

More gray hair.

Some stain on your favorite jeans that refuses to go away.

These are the small sorrows of life. Read separately and they are perceived as small; taken together, they become sorrows. It’s a strange phenomena, but one that you’re likely very familiar with. Chances are, you’ve been noticing the pile up, kind of like dishes in your sink or the insurmountable load of laundry you just can’t make yourself wash.

They’re a lot like toy cars, these wretched, tiny sorrows, in that one or two on the kitchen table doesn’t bother you. And if your son is like mine, then you also know that the next time you turn around every single freaking one of them will be on display, covering the table and clattering to the floor because there’s simply not enough room for them all.

Another way of describing it is drowning. Single drops of water are no threat, but when you toss a bunch of them in a pool, pretty soon you’re in over your head, struggling to stay afloat, wondering if someone – anyone – will come to your aid. Occasionally, there’ll be a lifeguard. Often, you’re on your own.

Sink or swim.

On the bad days, sinking seems the better option. What could be simpler than to just give in to the sorrow, let it overwhelm you, and hope that the “experts” are right and that drowning really is the most peaceful way to die? So you quit kicking. You quit struggling. You take a last breath and allow the water and darkness and sorrow to wash over you.

Only to discover that you still float.

Now you have to make a choice: take another breath, or let this one completely go? Keep floating or sink? Only a few sink; most take another breath, gulp another lungful of oxygen and hope. And even the ones that sink get only so far – usually, that survival instinct kicks the legs into gear and suddenly, there they are, breaking through the top of the water like Daryl Hannah in Splash.

And now they have to choose again: swim, float or exhale?

Personally, I’ve done all three, and quite often end up doing some sort of combo maneuver. Today, for example, was a swim-float-swim-punch-yourself-in-the-face kind of day. I was tempted to quit. I was tempted to exhale. But there was something in me that wouldn’t allow it. A sudden realization from my faith; I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, I was confronted again with a particularly powerful and woefully under-examined (at least in my neck of the woods) truth about God, and I came out the better for it.

I decided that swimming was the choice because only swimming brings you closer to the side of the pool of sorrows. Only swimming gives you the opportunity to actually emerge completely from the water and find dry land. Everything else leaves you in the midst of your sorrows; it gives them power, more power than they deserve.

So your kid got sick after you took her to the doctor for a preventative visit. So she spiked a fever, went pale, slept like a college graduate and threw up all over herself. Small sorrows, my friend. Small sorrows.

Keep swimming, and they’ll be behind you soon enough.

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