My kids love watching a YouTube channel called Evan and Katelyn, by…Evan and Katelyn. The couple does a mix of crafting, building, experimenting and gaming. On their channel trailer they say they aren’t “experts” in anything, but “hope to show people that making is fun, you don’t have to be perfect, and you can learn a lot if you give it a shot.” One of their slogans, seen on almost every episode via their shirts, is “words are hard.” Evan, in his excitement, often blanks on various terms to use thus: words are hard. They have made it an endearing character trait on the videos. My daughter has an Evan and Katelyn “words are hard” sweatshirt. Even though words aren’t hard for her, it’s still a fun shirt.
If only it would fit me. For the last few months, I’ve felt like adopting the phrase as my own. In the context of the show, the slogan is funny, and I laugh at Evan’s blank stares and added subtitles. However, in the context of my work, it’s not so great.
As a writer, words shouldn’t be hard.
And yet, right now, they are.
I’ve felt my ability to write shrink the more I’ve scrolled through social media unrest. I have thoughts and opinions on various things. I’m sure you do, too. I’ve spent time learning, forming ideas and even trying to engage in conversation. With some I came away pleasantly surprised at the outcome. With others, I’ve realized that no degree of thoughtful dialogue seems to matter. I’m sad about this. I’ve learned that even some of my most life-changing experiences—experiences that are both positive and negative, but nonetheless precious—can be used by others to attack me, and it’s exhausting. It’s not that the badgering has convinced me, but it has driven me to the place where I don’t even want to try.
You might remember that I’ve occasionally shared about the difficult medical journey we went through with our firstborn. I haven’t been secretive about the experience and what I felt in those moments—fear, grief, relief—but after that precious experience was used to “put me in my place” about masks, I decided I would now be very careful with whom I share. In the aftermath I realized I gave pearls to pigs (see Matthew 7:6), and I don’t want to make that mistake again.
The medical journey shaped me. That’s something I can’t and won’t change. I know our normal isn’t everyone’s normal. Not everyone has walked a medical trial; for themselves, with a loved one, or with a child. Not everyone monitors fevers like we do. Not everyone has the number for a pediatric emergency line on their phone. Not everyone knows the horror of signing hospital intake papers that state you won’t sue if your child dies during surgery.
So I try to keep in mind the varied degree of human experience when scrolling through social media. I try to give the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes the callousness is hard to ignore. It’s hard for me not to take certain stances personally, especially from people who know our family’s history. Especially from people who offered to pray for our family when our daughter was sick but who now cry “my body, my choice” over masks. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that, for some, prayers are easily offered, but action is too inconvenient when it comes to personal freedom.
I’ve repeatedly listened to the accusation that I’m “living in fear” and that I “need to have more faith.” I have spent time examining myself before the Lord. Do I have respect for a potentially deadly virus? Yes. Am I trying to respond with wisdom and discernment? Yes. Am I cowering in the corner, not living, as I’ve been accused? No.
I’ve learned that I can “live” no matter my circumstances. I’ve learned that God’s daily sustenance is the biggest miracle I’ve ever seen. He has sustained me through many things, even when I was angry at Him, even when I had no clue He was sustaining me, even when I lacked faith! I’ve learned that God’s faithfulness is part of who HE is, and His faithfulness isn’t dependent on me. I don’t have to prove anything to Him. He knows who I am. He knows my heart. He sees my struggles. He understands my weaknesses and promises it’s in my weakness that He is strong. My life hasn’t stopped as we stay home more and do less. Lasting hope doesn’t come from school or work or sports or even attending church. Hope rests in God—in Jesus Christ, his birth, life, death, resurrection—not in this world. I have hope for something better. Something lasting. Something bought by the blood of the Lamb. Something eternal.
God has used adversity to change me. To draw me to Himself. I have faith that during this time, He is drawing people to Himself, using adversity to help people see what they couldn’t before: They don’t hold the power to save themselves.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
I pray those words will not be hard, but sweet.
Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing, visit her blog, www.malindajust.com, or find her on social media @MalindaDJust.