Life Is Funny Until It’s Not

by | Apr 30, 2024 | Featured, Life Advice

Just One Thing

Folks often ask me, “How did you endure so much grief? How did you climb out of the dark?” 

My scientific answer is, “Medicine balanced my serotonin, my hormones, my moods. Karaoke gave me a needed distraction, helped me laugh again. Gathering a new tribe of family and friends was imperative.” 

All these things were helpful or needed—except karaoke . . . it was just fun! But the real answer is the one thing. Just one thing. 

One night a few years back, Andrew Tenenbaum called me and said he had a few extra tickets to the 25th Anniversary showing of City Slickers. I was ecstatic. Billy Crystal has always been a favorite of mine. Since Andrew was also his manager, chances were great that I would at least be in the same room. Not only was I in the same room, but Zach and I were seated directly behind him. Just before the movie started, a man slipped in late and sat right beside me. Of course, I began a little small talk. My enthusiasm and southern accent were just enough to annoy everyone around us so Billy would have to turn around. When he did, I was ready! 

“Hi Billy, I’m Chonda. I’m a comic too. Andrew is my manager, so we’re practically cousins!” 

He smiled politely and shook my hand as Zach sunk down in his seat. I was on a roll! I turned to the man sitting beside me, “You must be family, a dear friend? You have a pretty good seat, so I’m guessing you might be Billy’s tailor!” When I get nervous or feel out of place, my mouth often runs without a pinch of decorum or sophistication. 

The gentleman looked sideways at me, and he may have rolled his eyes. “I’m Ron Underwood. I’m here for the Q and A afterward.” 

“Ah. Nice to meet you! And what did you do in the movie?” 

“I directed it.” Oops! I think in Hollywood it’s supposedly a big deal to know these things! 

Thank goodness the lights dimmed just as my face flushed bright pink and Zach whispered, “Mom, don’t talk anymore!” 

I love the movie City Slickers. Who doesn’t? But the reason I bring it all up is this one thing. Do you remember the scene? Billy’s character, Mitch, has been bouncing about on a horse for days with Jack Palance (Curly), a rugged cowboy who is tougher than nails and can rope a calf with his big toe. Mitch laments to Curly about his complicated midlife crisis. Curly finally asks, “Do you know what the secret to life is?” Mitch sits up taller on his horse. Leans in to hear. He’s dying to know. Needs to know. It will be the glue that puts his entire life back together. Curly lifts his finger cradled in his dusty leather work glove, “It’s this one thing. Just one thing.” 

Mitch says, “Your finger?” 

“No!” Curly chuckles. “It’s just one thing.” 

That’s my answer, too. The secret to getting through anything starts with just one thing. Faith.

Has my faith ever wavered in strength? Yes, way too often. Have I questioned “why even bother?” You’d better believe it. Have I wondered if it works? Every other day. But you know what happens? The next day shows up. Then the next and the next. Before long, I’ve passed through one of the most difficult weeks of my life. Because of that one thing. 

If you’re expecting your faith to help you get something you want or fix everything, well, you might as well put your faith in a statue of a little fat man or buy a lottery ticket. There have been some tough days. Not as bad as the jump-in-the-river days. Days where I beg God, “Please, please fix this. Fix me. I can’t make it through this anymore.” Like the clink of a couple of coins into a slot machine, I pull the lever. Nothing. 

Bart Millard is a songwriter and friend. I mean, it’s not like I have his cell phone number and we toss around song ideas, but he must have some sort of spiritual connection with me because it never fails that when I am at a low point in my grief, missing David or the kids, a song he has written floats through my radio and speaks to me—like MercyMe’s “Even If”: 

I know You’re able and I know You can 

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand 

But even if You don’t, My hope is You alone¹ 

Maybe faith is not about what you get. Maybe it’s about who you become. Maybe it’s not about believing your circumstances will change; maybe it’s about believing in God even if they never do. Period. Not the getting. The giving of faith. The adoration regardless of the outcome. In that regard, I have never lost my faith. I have complete faith that God can change things, fix things. Sometimes He does, sometimes He doesn’t. But putting my trust and faith in Him has changed me because I’ve learned what happens if I don’t.

A better question might be, “Have you ever lost Chonda?” I’m pretty sure God would say, “Oh, a few times we came close. She tried to hide. She slipped to the shadows. Tried to jump in the river, but it was too shallow. I drained it on purpose. But I knew where she was the whole time.”

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