Since When Did Being Fussy Become Cool?

I confess. I can be fussy about far too many things. Way too fussy. Fussy about smells. Fussy about textures. Fussy about sensory violation and aesthetic offense. It's a fussiness that makes me self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-serving. It's a fussiness that by its very nature breeds selfishness, a selfishness that more often than not manifests itself in irritation, impatience, and indignation. 

Unfortunately, those I love the most are the ones who suffer the brunt of my fussiness. If they're feeling kind and tenderhearted, they jump through hoops to avoid displeasing me. If they're feeling intelligent, they knock themselves out to avoid being knocked out. And if they're feeling stubborn or rebellious, they violate my wishes for the sheer sinful fun of it. That's because fussiness always draws a response from others. In other words, it's never just about us. 

My fussiness about aesthetic violation isn't just about me when my husband is visiting the car wash multiple times a week to keep me happy through the salty mess of a Detroit winter. My fussiness about extraneous noise isn't just about me when he ceases to breathe during church so I'm not distracted by his inhaling and exhaling. And my fussiness about smells isn't just about me when he finds himself requesting yet another hotel room to end my dramatic sniffs of displeasure. And once settled in the new room, it most definitely isn't just about me when I'm flailing around in the middle of the night because the sheets are scratchy and, with punctuated sighs, I'm dramatically flipping my pillow over and over because everybody knows only down feather pillows stay comfortably cool.

I don't have any lofty goals to suddenly become all sweet and unfussified, but neither do I want to wear my persnicketiness as a badge of honor. Because it's not. Fussiness doesn't make me smart or discriminating or discerning. It makes me neurotic and narcissistic, unkind and ungrateful. But because I'm living in a world that's gets this backwards, I can find it easy to minimize the sin that supports my selfishness. It's a particular temptation these days because we're living in a culture where being fussy--fussy about food, fussy about chemicals, fussy about clothes, fussy about exercise--is not only cool, it's waved as a banner of wise parenthood, motherhood, adulthood and every other hood. 

It's a fussiness that's more seductive than ever because it's presenting itself as being fueled by altruistic motivation. It presents itself as being concerned for others, desiring their success, desiring their comfort, desiring their good health. And if we're not drawn in by its percieved consideration of others, there's always that gospel twist to entice us. Link a lifestyle to godliness, biblical mandate, or even to evangelistic outreach and Christians line up at the door. Who cares if my financial-advising husband is spending hours counseling couples whose fussiness for responsibly-farmed, GMO-free, Whole Foods-only shopping has landed them in debt. That's the price we pay for eating God's way. 

I don't know when fussiness became cool or when it became the litmus test for proper parental care, I just know I'm glad my children are grown. Nine-tenths of the touted essentials for keeping families alive today didn't exist when I was a young mother, and I still felt pressure. In fact, I'm fairly certain we lived on beans and rice for longer than I care to admit because of spending our entire food budget on Stride-Rite leather baby shoes that all parents purchased who loved their children enough not to condemn them to becoming prematurely crippled. Of course, it's since been discovered those shoes are a hazard, so the only thing we have to claim for that sacrifice is a generation of adults destined to land in wheelchairs by the time they're ninety. 

It isn't my intention to decipher where anyone crosses the line of good common sense into the realm of selfish fussiness. Swallow up your vitamins, scarf down your juice, sniff in your oils, and snuff out your poison. I don't care. Really. I don't. My only intention is to get us to think. To think about the fact that the ideology of the world has its roots deeply imbedded in the soil of self-preservation because it functions on the lie that man, not God, is the sustainer of life. Unless we operate out of an awareness of those roots, we'll find ourselves getting caught in a web of fussiness that has us making too big of a deal about that which sustains earthly existence. We'll make too big of a deal about things claimed to excel, expand and extend life, and too big of a deal about things claimed to decrease, decline and decay life. 

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet you're heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and you're heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  (Matthew 6: 25-33)

The point isn't that we don't offer attention to food and clothing or even to sensory pleasure, the point is that we don't offer these things attention in a way that sparks our anxiety, stirs our pride, and shifts our focus. It's the same point Paul makes about bodily exercise profiting little in comparison to the comprehensive benefits of spiritual exercise, a topic I address here. If we desire to remain centered on His Kingdom purposes, we have to remain thoughtful and vigilant. We have to humbly and prayerfully evaluate the expenditure of our physical, emotional and spiritual energies in light of eternity. We can't afford to forget that the Enemy has always operated with an intention to get our hearts fixated on what is less important so that we neglect what's most important.  

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:23-28)

One would think the tragic unfolding in Paris would be enough to jolt us out of our petty and paltry existence, but an event only captures our attention for a moment. For the majority of us, our lives have been marked by many jolting events that have never proven powerful enough to transform us. Events don't change us, Christ changes us. Without His sanctifying grace, we won't change because our hearts are too strongly bent toward the petty and paltry serving of self. Our hearts are too strongly bent toward fussiness that makes much out of that which matters little. Only Jesus can save us from the smallness of ourselves.

Fussiness isn't cool. The appropriation of the gospel doesn't leave room for being hard to please. It doesn't leave room for excessive and anxious concern about our own personal needs. It doesn't leave room for people having to walk on eggshells, jump through hoops, and knock themselves out to keep us happy. At the very heart of the gospel resides gratitude and praise, and nothing robs us of a thankful heart more than fussiness. I don't want to make a big deal about that which is only a little deal. And I don't want to miss what's significant because I'm busy about that which is insignificant. 

And as the wife of a kind and gracious man, I don't want my selfishness to put the love of my life in a position to sacrifice for me beyond what's kind and reasonable. I don't want my fussiness to have him serving me when I should be serving him. But please don't convey that desire to him because I don't want him passing out with excitement over the prospect of getting a new wife or anything. At least not until he books that room at the Ritz-Carlton for Christmas. Oh yea. And not until winter is over. Salt looks dreadful on a black car.