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When Kara Tippetts launched her blog, Mundane Faithfulness, in 2012, she could have had no idea how the Lord would call on her to illustrate the title.
Taken from a question Martin Luther posed, “What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?” Kara had intended it to cover topics like the daily grind of laundry, screaming kids, and getting dinner on the table. That is, the everyday weariness and joy inherent to motherhood and wife-hood.
But the blog’s focus took an almost immediate turn when, at age 36, the mother of four discovered she had stage 4 breast cancer. Suddenly, she and her husband Jason were fighting for her life while trying to plant a church in a new city in Colorado.
The heartbreaking, convicting, and ultimately joyful new documentary The Long Goodbye, newly available on Netflix, follows Kara and Jason’s fight for faithfulness in the midst of fear. Often in mundane ways.
The strength of the film is that, even though filled with moments that show Scripture meeting the Tippettses in their daily lives, it isn’t churchy. It doesn’t offer shallow, Christianese bromides for their pain. The faith Kara speaks of isn’t the stuff of sunrise-backed self-empowerment memes on Instagram. It’s too hard and too real for that.
Take, for instance, a scene where Jason is describing how wonderful Kara is and, without realizing it, begins talking about her in the past tense. It’s understandable that he wants to prepare himself, perhaps subconsciously, to hold on to memories of his wife while she’s still with him. Yet the quiet alarm in Kara’s eyes as she sits by his side, listening, is painful to see.
But God would not be God if He weren’t there in the painful things. And it’s clear that He is.
We tend to think of faithful, godly people as bathed in an effortless sense of peace and calm. Not only is that unrealistic, it isn’t reflected in the laments of Scripture. The Long Goodbye shows us Biblical faith that is both honest enough to cry out in hurt and confusion and then obedient enough to confess feelings of jealousy and doubt.
Kara admits she struggles to trust God’s promises in the face of test results that continually bring bad news: “There was one night I was struggling really hard. I had just gotten a new diagnosis, and I was laying in bed crying through Philippians 1:21, which is ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ And I said, ‘Lord, I don’t know that I believe You when You say to die is gain.’” Yet watching Kara fight to believe even in her unbelief is an encouragement to all of us who worry our fear and sorrow in trials mean we’re failing in the Christian life.
Director Jay Lyons deserves credit for avoiding pitfalls that would do a disservice to the graciousness the Tippettses showed in letting cameras into their experience. Famous faces pop up, like when Joanna Gaines visits to decorate the Tippettses’ home for Christmas after she learns the family is a fan of her show. Or when Ellie Holcomb gives a living room concert. But the focus stays on the mundane, not the glamorous. These household names enter the Tippettses’ world, not the other way around.
Lyons also avoids over-dramatizing family interactions and turning them into something maudlin or false. There isn’t a moment that it feels as if any of the Tippetts family members, even the youngest, are manufacturing emotion for the cameras.
Kara was blessed with amazing fruitfulness despite diminishing physically. In the three years from diagnosis to death, she wrote two books, spoke at numerous churches, and maintained her blog. More impressively, she continued to be kind and to give herself to friends and family—and now, to all of us who are being encouraged by her example. Although her life, by human estimation, was cut short, The Long Goodbye proves it was still, as God promised her it would be, abundant.