Have you ever noticed how much more credit we give people after they're dead and gone? Artists' paintings suddenly become valuable, musicians' singles start getting more airplay, writers' books enjoy revivals on best-seller lists. It always strikes me as a little bittersweet: "Boy, he sure is successful nowadays. Too bad he's underground."
Today would have been my friend Cindy's 36th birthday. She's been on my mind all week. It isn't just famous people whom we tend to exalt posthumously. Cindy, for example, was never famous at all (except to a very small circle of friends by whom she was adored) -- and yet now, six years after she went to meet her maker face-to-face, I find myself remembering things she used to say and suddenly, even if only in memory, I am listening. Really listening.
Cindy was a true Texan. Her drawl was contagious; Midwestern friends could always tell when I'd spent the night before in a two-hour phone convo with Cindy because I'd have a hard time keeping "y'all" out of my own vocabulary. I used to get a kick out of the phrases that became known as Cindyisms: "Heavens to Betsy!" and "Well, shooooooot!" and "Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!" could always make my giggle. Cindy liked to tell me what to do; two years my senior, she proudly referred to herself as my "bossy-boots big sister." And one of her most common bits of advice for me was to "Put on your big-girl panties and cowboy up!"
Several times this past week, I could almost hear her voice saying that to me. I've had to do some hard things over the last few weeks, and the temptation to give up, cave in, and wuss out has been pretty strong. But it's amazing how the Spirit of God will lead us into portions of His Word where the letters seem to jump off the page at us, just as we need them most -- and this, I suppose, is why I found myself reading James this week. I'm particularly fond of James in the Message translation. Check this out, from James 1:3-5: "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."
I realize now that a lot of Cindy's sisterly advice to me could have been straight out of the NTV (New Texan Version) of James 1. Maybe I should have listened a little more closely all those years ago. But of course, now that Cindy's in Heaven, her words carry a little more weight. And I swear -- I swear -- as I read James a few nights ago, I could almost hear Cindy standing next to Jesus, her hands on her hips, saying to me, "Yeah, Jena! What He said!"
Advice like this is hard to hear sometimes, whether it's from a bossy-boots big sister or from the King of Kings. Stick it out. Suck it up. Deal with it. Don't give up, wear down, back off, or fizzle out. Keep on keepin' on. Um, okay . . . how am I to do this, exactly? Thank God for verse six: "If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought."
Phew. I'm so glad God allowed for us to "not know what we are doing." 'Cause sometimes, not only do I not know how to put my big-girl panties on, but I don't even know which drawer to find them in! And God knows that. Even when I can't find my big-girl panties, He still covers my backside.
I can do this. All these hard things I'm facing this week, I can do through Christ. I'm puttin' on my big-girl panties and lookin' for my saddle. Happy birthday, Cindy.