Yesterday morning I hugged Bonnie.* Her dear husband died recently and this was the first I’ve seen her. When I gently hugged her somewhat frail body and whispered, “I’m so sorry. How are you doing?” she quietly replied with a small smile that is never far from the surface, “It is what it is.” No “as well as can be expected.” No “it’s hard but God is good.” Just “it is what it is.”
At first glance this could be seen as a fatalistic response, devoid of emotion, perhaps even denial. But for those of us who know her, these were words of complete trust in a loving God. We’ve watched Bonnie accept the vicissitudes of life with calm acceptance. When her favorite horse threw her to the ground and the resultant injuries required long and painful therapy and even longer recovery, she didn’t blame the horse! She occasionally wept but never whined. Simply: “It is what it is.”
Bonnie and her husband are well known in this community for their works of philanthropy. Words of condolence on a website were filled with a review of their generous gifts, their love of and work to preserve our beautiful Colorado environment, their encouragement to young and old.
But it is Bonnie’s unswerving trust in God, her unwavering commitment to spend time daily drinking deep from God’s Word, her acceptance of God’s will—“Because he loves us!”—that is known now and will be remembered for eternity.
But how does “it is what it is” even remotely connect to how we live out the Christ life? What biblical models do we find? Jesus, faced with 4,000 hungry people, simply turned to his disciples and said, “You feed them.” When he needs Peter’s boat as a pulpit because the crowds are growing, he just gets in, rows a bit off shore and preaches. It is what it is. When a prominent and wealthy young man decided the cost of following Jesus was too high, Jesus accepted his words but didn’t beg him to reconsider. It is what it is.
But perhaps the greatest example comes in the words of the Apostle Paul when he thanks his friends for the monetary gifts they’ve sent. He is grateful, but in his gratitude, he teaches a lesson my friend Bonnie has learned:
I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Bonnie didn’t learn Paul’s secret of contentment overnight. Since first being introduced to Jesus as a young woman, she has practiced the process. Often at great cost. She isn’t denying that lonely days lie ahead, especially as her own aging process runs on. But she is living in the now, in the quiet “It is what it is.”