“We need to talk,” she said, and as thick as my teenage skull was, I knew that phrase meant trouble. On the way home from work I stopped at her house so that she could break up with me. When she was done, I scraped together what little dignity I had left, held my head up, and walked away (controlling the urge to run). As my car came into view I began to realise that my hopes for a quick getaway were not going to materialise. While my girlfriend had been breaking my heart, my car had been simultaneously experiencing a similar, if more literal, fate. My now-ex-girlfriend’s mother had reversed into it, and now the driver’s side door resembled my insides. It wouldn’t open. And the car was parked beside a wall, so the door on the other side couldn’t open either. I ended up having to squeeze my broken spirit ignominiously through an open window. So much for a dignified exit.
As I drove away, I didn’t laugh. But when I think about the situation today, laughing is all I can do. I laugh at the pure absurdity of it, at the perfection of comedic timing, and at the over-dramatics of love and loss in the late teens. I had lost more than a girlfriend that day: my car was damaged, my pride was damaged, and my reputation with my peers was damaged. For someone in their late teens, these are the unfathomable depths of darkness. But a few thousand sunrises later, I see clearly that my car, my pride, and my reputation weren’t nearly as important as I thought they were at the time. Looking back, it was good for me that they all took a beating that day. There’s no question I had been taking myself far too seriously for my own good.
I thought I looked silly climbing through the car window to leave, but how silly did my proud little heart look to the God of the universe when I arrived? He knew that the blessing I needed most that day was a strong reminder that no matter what I thought of myself, I was still human, still small and dependent, and the best of my plans for myself could crumble as quickly as the door of my car. There are times to be serious, I know, and plenty of things to be serious about. But if I see my own plans and sense of self-importance as the serious centre of all things, then I’ve gone off course.
I see the humour of that day now, and I laugh. I also see how God’s plans for me have worked out to be far better than my own. Sometimes laughing and seeing go together that way: If I can’t embrace my own smallness, my own humiliations, and my total dependence on the God who made me, then my pride has grown out of control. That’s a serious problem. And sometimes the solution is as simple as having a good, long laugh at my own little self.