82. Upside Down Reality


      I’m not sure where I first heard the phrase, but I think it may have been from a Sunday School  teacher when I was just a kid.  I’m assuming it was on a day when I was pouting over one thing or another.  Like many kids my age, I had discovered that sometimes I could get exactly what I wanted if I just put on a big frown  and proceeded to stalk around the room looking as if my whole life would be ruined if I didn’t get my way.  Granted, pouting didn’t always work, and on more than one occasion it backfired completely, but at other times a good pout could get me out of doing something I didn’t want to do or  acquire something I really wanted…..like a chocolate ice cream cone!  Almost inevitably at such moments a teacher or my parents would say something like ,  “Why are you so sad?  Don’t you know a frown is just a smile turned upside down?”

     What kind of silly logic was that?  Smiles have nothing to do with frowns!!  You smile when you’re happy and things are going your way.  Did they really think that I liked the way things were going so I should just smile?  They were missing the whole point of my pouting expertise!   I was certainly not happy and didn’t want my face to convey anything otherwise.  I don’t know who came up with that crazy saying, but they obviously didn’t know  anything about being a kid who wasn’t getting the chocolate ice cream cone he wanted!  Smiling was not an option!! 

     I hope I’ve grown up a little since then, but I’ve had more than a few opportunities to experience the sad reality that frowns aren’t just smiles turned upside down. Disappointment and discouragement are two of the more constant realities of life. They come in all sorts of packages, and often when you least expect it.  One of the most common shared experiences of being a human being is to be faced with a situation that doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to!  We’ve all had our share of those “not so exciting moments” in our lives. 

      Think about that for a minute!  Yes, it starts when you’re a toddler and you hear your parents say the word “NO” when you want to pull all the pots and pans out of the cabinent.  Don’t they realize how much fun that is?   Later, for reasons that simply boggle your mind,  they won’t buy you that super-duper, 383 piece, light-up robot with the lazer eyes and optional accessary tool belt simply because it costs $79.99!  As far as you know they are loaded and should buy you one of those robots because your friend Georgey down the street got one for his birthday.  As a teenager you get rejected by that little red head girl that grew up to be a knockout and thinks you are no longer worthy to be a part of her circle of friends.   Young adulthood leads to multiple opportunities to find out what you’re really not good at……like Calculus or flipping burgers…….and a whole slew of hormone produced awkward social moments. Once you reach the age of an adult, whatever that is,   you have to deal with negative co-workers,   being passsed up for promotion,  problems making the financial ends meet, family disagreements,   this thing called “stress”, and the betrayal of your once agile body…..and you still may be denied your chocolate ice cream cone.  The frowns that accompany your daily journey don’t feel anything like “smiles turned upside down”.   Like me, you may want to choke that “smile” right off the face of the guy who came up with that ridiculous phrase.  Our reality at times is nothing to smile about!! 

     I could probably rant and rave about such things with the best of them.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve had just about enough of the positive thinking folks who are always telling us to “look at the bright side”.  I’ve even been one of those people at times…..YIKES!  That’s usually when  a situation arises making it very hard  for me to turn my own frown around.  The reality is,  we live in a upside down world much of time, offering no shortage of opportunities to be discouraged, disheartened, and depressed.  Smiles just don’t come easy at those difficult moments  …….THAT’S LIFE!  You either need to learn how to deal with that disappointment or it will “deal” with you!   No clever cliches or maxims are going to change your reality. 

     That being said,  I do believe there is something we can do to control our outlook on life’s little hurdles  (and the big ones, as far as that goes).  We certainly can’t stop life from happening all around us, but we do have some choices to make on how we handle it.   When your favorite team loses a big game,   an unexpected bill comes, or a relationship gets stressed you certainly aren’t expected to be happy.  A physical setback,  the loss of a job,  or a flat tire are never going to generate a ton of smiles.   A bad haircut,  the betrayal of a friend,  or an ongoing conflict at your church aren’t part of the recipe for having a good day.   The reality is,  life can deal you a series of disappointments  — some big, some small, some downright heartbreaking…..and most of which are not comical enough to make you smile. 

    But that’s the “upside down” part of the “upside down reality”.  As messy and complicated as life can get,  as disppointing and discouraging as our situation may be,  and as confused and unfortunate the results may be despite our  best efforts,  we can decide how we are going to respond.  Our circumstances do not need to determine our outcome.  We may truly be frowning on the outside, but down deep inside there’s a hint of a smile because we know whatever is going on won’t ultimately define who we are or how we’ll choose to respond to this latest setback.  Our stories don’t end with the frowns life creates;  we get to decide what we are going to do next. 

    I think that’s where one’s faith  in God comes into the equation. In many ways people of true faith have a distinct advantage over those who don’t believe in God.  Those who say they trust in the providence of God can get as discouraged as those who don’t, but ultimately that element of faith will help them put any negative circumstance into a proper perspective.  It still hurts when their team loses, a friend lets them down, or the money won’t stretch that far.  But down deep in their soul there is something that tells them it’s going to be alright and they’ll get through this because they aren’t walking alone…….and that awareness will bring just the hint of a smile to even the most “frowny face” person of faith.

     Frowns may not really be smiles turned upside down,  but situations that make you frown  can, and should,  be viewed through the longer range lens of faith.  Things don’t need to be sunshine and roses for your to know in the depth of your being that it’s going to be OK.   We are never left to fend through the disappointments of life alone.  When we hurt the most, God always loves us the best!   That reality won’t erase the disappointing moments of life, but it will make it possible to believe that there’s a smile waiting for you after the frown.     

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