It was our first official weekend in Kingston. Our closets were organized, our pantry stocked and our hearts full of eager ambition for the journey ahead. We had met the neighbors, opened a local banking account and navigated the Kingston traffic without incident (which is no easy task, mind you, but that’s an entry in itself). Overall, we were feeling very “Jamaican” and I was feeling extremely self confident. The world had clearly underestimated my spirit when they said an international move to a third world country might be a difficult transition.
We awoke Saturday morning with plans of spending the day at the beach. Kevin rolled out of bed with a spring in his step and began packing our beach bag. I woke up with pink eye and a severe stomach ache. Because I was still feeling optimistic about my adaptation skills, I crawled out of bed for some ibuprofen, thinking I could sleep it off and we could hit the beach in the afternoon. I opened my bag for the pills, and a cockroach the size of a small rodent scampered up my arm (Those who know me well know there’s nothing I fear more than roaches). Things quickly went from bad to worse. I flew up the kitchen table about as fast as my adventurous spirit came flying down. Thanks to my heroic husband, the threat was demolished in less than five seconds. I curled up on the couch in fetal position, feeling sorry for myself and wanting to sleep. Within a few minutes, I felt the strange sensation of crawling. I jumped up to find HUNDREDS of ants all over the couch, and all over me. As Kevin tried unsuccessfully to stifle laughs and show sympathy, I went grumbling upstairs and proceeded to pout.
The thing about pouting is once you start, you sort of pout yourself into a hole and then become too prideful and stubborn to ask for help out. Down in that hole, all I wanted was for everyone I knew to feel sorry for me. I wanted them to nurse my wounds, tell me they couldn’t imagine how I did it, and how they’d be on the next flight home if they were in my shoes. I was wallowing in self-pity, and deep down, embarrassed by it. All it took was a cockroach and a few harmless ants to knock the wind right out of my sails. So much for my adventurous spirit.
Because I didn’t know what else to do (not because I was feeling particularly spiritual), I opened my Bible and began reading. Of course God wasn’t fazed by my meltdown. As any good Father, He wanted to teach me something through it and help me out of the hole in the process. Here are the verses I read: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5: 16-18). I reread the verses, thinking there must be a caveat (or maybe my pink eye was interfering with my vision). Surely Paul didn’t mean always. Surely international moves and stomach aches and attacks by vicious insects earn you an “Ungrateful-and-miserable-for-a-day” pass. But try as I might, I found no exceptions. When the Bible says always, I think it means always. When Paul said, Give thanks in ALL circumstances, I don’t think he meant MOST circumstances.
Since that day, whenever I feel self-pity or ingratitude creeping into my heart, I whisper three little words that turn my thoughts around: BE JOYFUL ALWAYS. It’s kept me out of the pouting hole on many occasions. When you’re joyful, it’s hard to wallow, or mope, or let the little nuisances of life get you down. When you’re joyful, you’re more pleasing to others. And to God. And this is how I want to be.
With joy, gratitude, & cockroach juice from Jamaica,
Kevin & Cass