My wife Nancy and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary last week, and I have been reflecting on our years together. She works from home, raising our five children, and caring for her high-maintenance husband. She is utterly precious, and I value her more than diamonds or rubies. Almost every day throughout these years, Nancy has greeted me at the door when I get home from work. Her smile is warm and her embrace warmer. She is genuinely glad to see me, and always follows a hug with “how was your day?”
For years I thought little about this question, answering “good”, “fair”, and “rough” depending upon a mix of factors – what happened to me, how my drive home was, and how tired I felt. If something big or bad happened, the perceived quality of my day was based on just a few minutes of real time. For example, although a fight with a co-worker or a rebuke from a boss may have lasted only a few minutes, the whole day might be ruined.
Eventually I realized the foolishness of judging my day by what happened in a few minutes. I trained myself to mentally cut the day into segments, and to notice how long pleasant and unpleasant events actually lasted. Once during my morning commute I was rear-ended by an inattentive driver on the I-395, south of Washington DC. The damage was minimal, but my schedule was thrown totally out of whack. That night when Nancy asked her inevitable question I said “my day was good, but this morning I had a rotten 45 minutes.”
My answer, though, was still passive. The quality of my day was based on what happened to me rather than on what I had done. Other people had the power to control my perception of how good or bad my day was. Since weeks, months, and years are ultimately only collections of days, others had tremendous control over how I perceived my life. I pondered the question “how was your day”, and considered several possible ways to answer it.
- The perfunctory “fine”. The asker is left to wonder if you are too tired to give a better answer, if you are trying to hide something, or if you care so little about them and your relationship that you don’t bother to reveal more.
- Based on what happened to you? This is probably how most people do it. A man who wins a sweepstakes probably feels like his day was great, even if his 20-year-old, 200,000-mile pickup truck was also stolen. However, “big” events, whether happy or unhappy, are rare. Our days are filled with “little” occurrences, and we tend to remember the unpleasant ones more than the pleasant ones. Thus the passive answer to “how was your day” tends to give us a lot of slightly bad days.
- Based on how you feel at the moment? The evaluation of the day is skewed by the events that occurred just before the question was asked. Heavy traffic and “the guy that cut you off” on the way home can ruin the perception of an otherwise good day.
- Based on what you did? Judging a day based on what you accomplished is more active than judging the day based on what happened to you or how you feel at the moment. It also gives you more control – days that you accomplish a lot will seem better than days in which you accomplish little. “I took care of 18 patients” is a better answer than “So and so bad-mouthed me to the boss.” However, this answer still allows others a lot of control over how you perceive your life. If John, Muhammad, or Fernando prevented you from accomplishing all that you wanted, he can make your day worse, intentionally or unintentionally.
- Based on how you handled what the Lord brought into your life? God is sovereign over our world and our lives. He uses people and events to shape us and us to shape people and events. When the Lord says “work”, we work. When He says “rest”, we rest. When He brings someone into our lives who we perceive as a “bother” or a “waste of time”, we try to discover His purpose. The most irritating person may be teaching us compassion, or may provide a good occasion to practice control over the time that He has given us. God knows what we need far better than we do. Days that we trust, obey, and enjoy Him are the best days of all.
We have no record of how Jesus answered the question “how was your day”, or even that he ever got it. Nevertheless, His example is useful. Jesus was never passive, and likewise His followers are to be active in every area of life. We cannot let others control us, for we serve God alone. Seemingly little things, like the answer to the question “how was your day” slowly but inevitably shape us over the years. The summation of how you answer this question over time affects how you remember your life. It also affects how others think of you.
One last note. While it is important to judge your day by how well you handled what the Lord brings into your life, there remains the danger of too much self-focus. Be sure that you spend more time thinking about God’s faithfulness than thinking about your own.
How was your day?