Grace Notes, by Nancy Kennedy
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow.
Today I’m suffering First World Problems. To name a few:
I noticed too late that the gray of my shirt does not match the gray of my pants. Also? I left the house without wearing any bracelets, so not only am I color uncoordinated, but I have naked wrists.
The drive-through at McDonald’s was too long so I had to park and get out of my car and walk all the way into the store to get my coffee only to get in line behind someone ordering a breakfast combo meal and I had to wait anyway. I could’ve stayed in my car. And it was cold outside.
The apple I brought for lunch looked crisp and crunchy, but I was deceived. It was mushy and tasteless.
Those are First World Problems, a meme (idea that spreads through the culture) that’s spreading across the Internet, spawning some really funny stuff. One site posts some of the best ones, all accompanied by photos of very sad, pathetic-looking people sobbing because the pizza box doesn’t fit in the fridge or the restaurant didn’t have Dr. Pepper so the person had to drink Pepsi.
First World Problems (FWP).
In other words, the triviality that spoiled, self-centered, generally middle-class white Americans overly concern ourselves with — the DVR shut off before the re-run of Law and Order from 1998 ended and I didn’t get to find out the verdict and who know when it’ll be on again.
I only want one brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart, but I would have to buy a whole box — and they come two to a pack and I know if I eat one I’ll end up eating both and then hate myself for my lack of self-control. But I really, really want a brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart and I’m bummed that I can’t get just one!
How tragic is my life?!
Um, not at all.
Except earlier this week my daughter moved to Hawaii, 4,700 miles away from me, and even though for the past three years she lived in Virginia 800 miles away, we were at least still in the same time zone on the same continent.
It’s a First World Problem, but I’m sad. My granddaughter has to leave her friends and go to a new school — and what if kids are mean to her? Again, First World Problems, but problems nonetheless.
The FWP meme on the Internet is a clever, snarky commentary on our culture, about how, compared to probably 90 percent of the world’s population we have nothing to complain about. We are rich and have more than enough of everything. FWP is a way of slapping ourselves in the face, a way of saying, “Get over yourself.”
I’m all for putting life’s trivialities into perspective, and I do love the opportunity to point out to others when they’re making too much of insignificant, inconsequential things.
Wah wah. Boo hoo. Quit your whining. Shut your mouth, bite your tongue and count your blessings.
I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.
However, as Christianity Today blogger Caryn Rivadeneira recently wrote in a post about her own First World Problems, while the meme is useful for putting our small, petty problems in perspective against the world’s real problems like poverty, hunger, homelessness, slavery and devastation from man-made and natural disasters — and we should — it also puts a guilt trip on people who are nevertheless hurting.
Small problems or tiny heartaches still hurt. They’re still ours, and God still cares about them because he cares about us.
I’m not talking about Pop Tarts and DVRs and lines at McDonald’s. That’s just self-absorption gone amok. I’m talking about the things that keep us awake at night — a looming deadline, a child with the flu. A throbbing toe, a child moving 4,700 miles away for the next three years.
Jesus told his followers that if God cares about insignificant sparrows (which he does), he will surely care about you and me (Luke 12:6-8, my paraphrase).
Because we matter to God, what matters to us matters to him, even the smallest matters. Yes, the world is terribly broken and sad and people are suffering horrifically, and I’m sad that my daughter moved away — and thankful that God cares about it all.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.