Every morning I was in Africa, I tried to spend at least an hour writing, praying and/or meditating. A quiet time to listen to God and talk to him before everything got crazy.
A few days after I got out of the hospital after having malaria, I got a cup of coffee from the kitchen and walked back to my room. I picked up my notebook and my Bible and my pen, prepared to do some deep thinking and praying.
And then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My disheveled hair, pale skin and dark circles under my eyes. The bruises on my hands from where the I.V.’s had been. My brain was still blurry, and I was still trying to compose the opening song for Malarious, the Broadway musical I’d dreamed about writing while I had malaria.
“Jesus, I’m a MESS!” I exclaimed. What meaningful words could I possibly say to God in this state?
And instead of sitting down for a still, somber silence — or bursting into tears — I simply flopped onto my bed laughing.
Laughing out loud, laughing so hard my body shook, laughing at the contrast of the sacred and the ridiculous. Laughing at how little I had to offer God, laughing at how it didn’t matter. Because I was desperately, overwhelmingly, happily loved.
A friend e-mailed me that afternoon and asked how I was doing.
“I feel more fragile and lost then ever,” I wrote. “But then I realize how loved I am and how nothing else matters, and then I just laugh and keep going.”
I felt like that again this morning.
It’s been a hectic week — I flew to L.A., spoke at two chapel services, and today I’m flying to Sacramento where I’ll be speaking at another chapel service tomorrow. Three hotels, two rental cars, three talks and 2500 air miles in a week.
I’m a little jet-lagged, my schedule’s busy, plus I’m on deadline to write another book, and I’m still recovering from being really sick in Africa.
I sat down to spend time with God this morning. I sat down to write — to tell him something meaningful, something important. And instead, I just started laughing. “God, I’ve got nothin’!” I said out loud.
And instead of doing super serious thinking or writing, I went downstairs to the hotel lobby in my p.j.’s to get a cup of coffee, smiling at how desperately, overwhelmingly, happily loved I am.
After I spoke at chapel yesterday, I was trying to determine if my approach to public speaking has changed since the time I spent overseas.
The only thing that came to me was this: Before, especially when speaking at retreats, I used to ask people at the beginning to leave everything at the door. To forget about work stress, babysitters, deadlines, financial problems, etc. for the weekend.
But now, I want to say, “Bring it! Don’t leave it at the door, don’t try to forget about it, don’t spend energy trying to push it out of your thoughts. Bring it with you. Lay it down.”
Because sometimes it takes acknowledging all our weaknesses, all our problems, all the things we’ve screwed up or can’t figure out, all the ways we fall short, all the reasons our hearts are hurting, to realize how little we have to offer God.
And once we’ve laid it all down, we can look into his eyes that are not sad or angry, but smiling. And we can laugh with him. Because we are so desperately, overwhelmingly, happily loved by him.
And nothing else matters.