Good Days and Bad Days

October 2, 2012

This morning a Facebook friend posted his status: “Today is a good day.” Having just come off a bad day myself, the simplicity of his statement caught my attention and begged for reflection. Sunday for me was the sort of day Judith Viorst described in her class children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Well, I had one.

Two events cast their deep shadows on this week’s Sabbath. The first occurred during worship and the second at home late in the day. On this particular week, my participation in worship was musical. The choir director needed a pianist to substitute for our regular keyboardist. So I took on the two pieces, which were spectacular, fun to play, and challenging enough to require hours of practice and 30 minutes with the choir. We have three services, so it would be a long morning. No problem; I’m used to that. Everything went fine (so until 11:37 a.m. it was actually a good day), until the third performance of the second piece. And somehow, inexplicably, I completely lost my concentration at a page turn and muffed the notes so badly the choir could not make its entrance. We had to stop. As we haltingly started again, I still was internally paralyzed for another eight or twelve bars, just thinking about what I had done. I was mortified and felt terrible afterwards, and then the pastor—full of grace and good humor—used the debacle as an illustration of the point he had been making in his sermon.  It took me most of the afternoon to get over it.

And then at 5 p.m., while preparing our favorite dinner, I burned the rotisserie chicken. I mean, it went up in flames, along with the potatoes. Fortunately, this all happened outside on the gas grill, but it is indeed a bad day when your long-awaited culinary treat becomes a burnt offering unto the Lord. The morning’s praise offering was marred by an appalling inattention of one sort, and the afternoon’s burnt offering was caused by inattention of another kind. At my places of personal pride—musicianship and gourmet skills—I had failed, and pretty spectacularly.

I could not wait for the day to be over.

Just so you know, two days later, I’ve moved on. And then I read my friends status update: “Today is a good day.”

How do we evaluate the goodness or badness of a day? Typically, I realize after Sunday’s mortification, we judge a day by successes, achievements, whether we got our own way, and circumstances falling in pleasant places. Bad days are days in which we were embarrassed, hassled, frustrated, or incompetent.  I know this is how we feel about it. I remember another Alexander-type day several years ago in which several things went wrong, a couple complex problems defied solution, the air conditioning went out on a very hot day. And as I turned out the light and tried to go to sleep, the final insult was hearing a mosquito buzzing around my head, invisible and determined to get its feast for the day. I cried out to the Lord, “Okay, that is it, Lord. It’s my turn for a blessing!” Like Jacob I wrestled with God in utter discomfort and defeat.

But here is the Word from the Lord: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). The day itself, the span of time, is a gift of God. What happens in it might not be so great, but the day is good. It contains opportunities to experience redemption. It gives us practice at being grateful to God despite circumstances. And it provides space for enjoying the presence and power of God in those circumstances. The day itself is good because its Creator is good, and what he has made is good (Genesis 1). He numbers our days lovingly, is present in every one of them, and by his Spirit even provides a way for us to enjoy the day while we tackle the challenges that flow through it. It is not even necessary to resort to Scarlet O’Hara’s philosophy, “Well, fiddle-dee-dee. Tomorrow is another day.” It is true of course, that we have tomorrow; but we still have today to decide how we’re going to feel, how we are going to respond to God, and how we are going to grasp the joy that is both a gift and a choice for the Christian. Yes, it is faith that helps me see it this way, and thank God for that. So I join my friend with the affirmation, “Today is a good day!”





7 Responses to “Good Days and Bad Days”

  1. Your candor and non-defensiveness speak quietly and with great power, dear friend.

  2. Collin Says:

    “It was a good day to die” – Garrison Keillor said that, then added something like “then how much more a good day to live.”

    Not exactly on point but it came to mind after reading your post (for which many thanks).

    • revmary Says:

      I love this! Reminds me of the desert fathers who kept a skull on their desks to remind them of their mortality. Paul’s version: to live is Christ; to die is gain. Thank you for sharing… Was this from a monologue or from one of Keillor’s books?
      Collin’s reply by email, for all you Prairie Home Companion fans:
      It was one of his monologues. He was describing his old aunt, who died on a lovely spring morning, out in the garden, thinking about planting the tomatoes. This aunt was an odd-ball in his family; she would play cards with him and drink vodka, which he would pour for her, when he was a young boy (think single-digits). She had a glass with pictures of fish on the side and would tell him to pour “two fishes” worth of vodka, more or less depending on the day and her mood.
      What a great story-teller!

      It was a good day to die, with the sun shining and a warm gentle breeze.

  3. Viola Larson Says:

    Thank you, your words are often just the right ones feeding into my own glum days. And feeling we have messed up always makes days seem that way. But after all it is his grace and righteousness and we are his too. Besides whenever you think of the burnt chicken and potatoes just remember the lovely pictures of your jars of strawberry and fig jam you shared on Facebook: )

  4. Says:

    Thanks for being open and honest. For sure I identify with you (and most readers would agree). The question I have is what would you do if asked to accompany the choir again soon? How would you feel , what decision would you make, and how would you work through with God your experience of last Sunday?

    • revmary Says:

      Well, Sandy, your question isn’t hypothetical . . . I was asked on short notice to play for rehearsal last night (our pianist’s mother is deathly ill so we go from day to day). No problem playing; but at the start, I did apologize to the choir for traumatizing them. They would have nothing of it. With lovely humor and generosity of spirit, they said “we went through that train wreck together and survived.” As far as how I have processed this with God, I had to weed out the threatened pride and the potential anxiety about playing in public, but it has come down to trusting God and “getting back on the horse.” Bad days happen, but they don’t have to start a trend! And God certainly used it to humble me once again and sort me out. It is never my intent to draw attention away from the One we are worshiping; nevertheless, God can use the stumbles ultimately for instruction, correction, and the display of his grace, which is what I hope is happening.

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