I love the music of the 90’s. I listened to only Christian music for most all of my childhood, but in 7th grade, I was allowed to start listening to secular music. It started with ‘Love Will Lead You Back’ by Taylor Dayne. It continued with ‘Hold On’ by Wilson Phillips, ‘Vision of Love’ by Mariah Carey, ‘Ice Ice Baby’ by Vanilla Ice, and ‘Can’t Touch This’ by MC Hammer. My tastes expanded as I grew into my teen years to include Jon Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Boys to Men, En Vogue, Salt-n-Pepa, and even Snoop Dogg, and Warren G (Regulators, mount up!)
XM Sirius radio has a station called 90’s on 9. I love when they have free preview weekends, because I can turn that station on and listen all day. Recently, I was able to catch one of these weekends, and I heard one of my all-time favorite artists, Alanis Morissette. Her album Jagged Little Pill was released the summer of my high school graduation. Every song on the album was so good, and my college roommate and I listened to it over and over. It was about things not going your way and unsuccessful relationships. You know, that super positive type of music you love while in college!
The title ‘Jagged Little Pill’ came from a lyric from one of the songs called “You Learn”. Straight from Wikipedia, the song “speaks of the importance of poor decision making in life by explaining that these decisions can teach valuable lessons.” Here is a sample of the lyrics:
I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah
I, recommend walking around naked in your living room, yeah
Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles
You live, you learn, you love, you learn
You cry, you learn, you lose, you learn
You bleed, you learn, you scream, you learn
A few months ago, God taught me a lesson using a jagged little pill.
Zoe was sick with bronchitis back in the fall. She is at that age where the doctor can prescribe pills instead of liquid medicine. She hates the taste of medicine, so we thought this would definitely be the route to go. We prepped by swallowing small candies. Then I swallowed one of my pills as an example for her to watch. We had her practice just tipping her head back and swallowing. Finally the moment of truth came. She put the pill in, tried to swallow it, and she couldn’t do it.
She didn’t really do all the steps correctly. She didn’t hold her head all the way back. She didn’t put the pill far back on her tongue. We reiterated the steps and she tried again. Fail. She just couldn’t do it.
By this time, the pill is getting gross and soggy, and of course leaves a bad taste in her mouth. We dry the pill off and try again. No luck. I’m starting to get upset and frustrated with her. It seems so simple! Scott decides it’s his turn to try. I walk away. He tries, giving her the same tips and advice. Still no luck. She tried several times. He got so frustrated with her that he eventually yelled very loudly at her. Hence, the tears started flowing. We all stepped away. She did eventually get it, but wow it was a dramatic experience for us all. And we had to do it for 4 more days after that! But after that first time, the next times didn’t seem nearly as difficult or traumatic.
As I stood in the living room watching Scott lose his patience in a way I never have (he gets frustrated with objects, not people), I was thinking to myself, “Zoe just take the pill! Swallow the dern pill! It will make you feel better!” Immediately God started whispering in my spirit, “You can’t make somebody do something. No matter how hard you want something for someone, you can’t make them do it. I have felt the same way towards you many, many times. Sometimes I’m yelling at you saying, ‘Swallow the dern pill, Sarah! It may be hard to swallow, but it will be so much better for you on the other side! And if you’d stop fighting me, even the swallowing wouldn’t be difficult’.“
Ugh. Hit me square in the gut. Or maybe I should say heart. I know God wants me to be healthier. But He can’t make me get up and exercise. He can’t make me eat healthy foods. He can’t make me drink water. I have to do it. I know He wants me to spend more time in His word and in prayer. But He can’t make me wake up earlier. He can’t make me stop wasting time with silly games on my iPad. He can’t make me turn the TV off. I have to do it. I have to swallow the pill (get up to exercise, eat healthy, turn the tv off) to reap the benefits of the pill down the road (a physically and spiritually healthy body). The first step will be hard, but it’s worth it. The best thing is, He even helps us with the first step. He helps us swallow the pill. We just have to allow Him to help us.
Like with my little Elsie, who is 10 years old and just got contacts. She wanted them after she got hit in the face playing basketball, which really hurt. When we got to the doctor’s office, she let the nurse put them in her eyes like a champ! I was so proud of her. There was no way I could have done that at her age! I could hardly do it at 33 when I got contacts!
But once we got home and she tried to do it herself, she struggled. It was the same situation like we had with Zoe. I helped at first, showing her how I put mine in. But she just couldn’t do it. Then Scott tried once my frustration got to be too much. She still couldn’t do it with Scott talking her through it. Finally, Scott did it for her.
She wanted that contact in so bad, but she just couldn’t do the necessary steps to make it happen. She knew it was so much better in the long run to wear the contacts, but she just couldn’t do it herself. Finally, her Papa stepped in to help her. Sometimes we need the help of our Father to do the hard stuff. Sometimes we need His help in swallowing the jagged little pill. But many times, we don’t even put ourselves in the position to swallow. We don’t even listen and allow Him to talk us through how to swallow. We sit there and know what we need to do, but are too proud to ask for help and then to scared to even try. Like with Zoe, she heard what we were saying to her, but still never really did what we told her to do. She never really accepted the help. She tried to do it on her own, but was too scared. And with Elsie, she couldn’t do it at first on her own either. But instead of letting fear or pride get in the way, she let Scott help her.
I’ve seen this played out many times since Zoe’s pill episode. Back in October, our church had a booth at Warrior Day. We sold slices of pizza and drinks, and gave away balloons and hugs. One little girl was so thrilled about her balloon. Her mom asked me to tie a slip knot and wrap it around the little girl’s wrist so it wouldn’t fly off. The little one would have none of it! She wanted to hold that balloon instead of waiting just a few seconds for me to tie the knot. Doing the hard thing of waiting just a few seconds would definitely be better in the end. She would be guaranteed to have the balloon at the end of the day. The daughter won the battle that time, and I’m pretty sure her balloon was one of the many we saw flying in the air that afternoon!
I was reminded of doing the hard thing while studying Esther recently. Esther became queen of Persia when King Xerxes chose her to be his bride. She never revealed that she was a Jew because her cousin, Mordecai, who had raised her, advised her not to.
Mordecai learned that Haman, the evil prime minister, was going to kill all of the Jews because Mordecai would not kneel down and worship him. Mordecai sent word to Esther, urging her to go into the king’s court to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people, the Jews. Esther sent this word back to Mordecai:
“All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” – Esther 4:11
Esther knew that she could go into the king’s presence, but if he did not lift his golden scepter, then she would be put to death. So her first reply to Mordecai’s request was no. The easy thing to do was to do nothing. But Mordecai reminded her of her identity, and told her that this might have been the very reason God placed her as queen. So instead of doing the easy thing, she did the hard thing. She swallowed her pill. She entered the king’s presence, but only with help from the King of Kings. She could not have done this alone. She had all the Jewish people gather together and pray and fast for 3 days before she attempted approaching the King Xerxes. And as she entered the court, he was pleased with her and held out his golden scepter.
King Xerxes asked Esther what it was that she wanted. She requested a series of banquets with him and Haman. And at the last banquet, she revealed that she was a Jew and that Haman was trying to kill her and her people. The king had Haman killed and signed into law the right to assembly and protection for all of the Jews. She swallowed the pill by walking into that room. And wow, the benefits that followed!
I’ve been gnawing and teething on these thoughts for months now. Note, I haven’t swallowed the pills that He’s wanting me to swallow. Even though He very clearly told me to, I’m still fighting. Like the lyrics to one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs called “Hold Me Jesus”:
Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees
I’m singing hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace
We fight Him. We hold onto that balloon string. We keep blinking instead of holding our eyes open. We keep our mouths shut instead of swallowing. We say no instead of going. And all He’s saying is, “If you will just listen to me, I’ll help you swallow. It’s so much better on the other side of this pill.” I think it’s time to start swallowing, folks. It may seem like a jagged, little pill, but it may surprise you at how smooth it actually goes down.