Beginnings and Endings: Holding Joy and Sorrow in Each Hand
Life is full of complicated mixed emotions. Joy and sorrow do not fit into neat little compartments but are often jumbled into one big casserole with a little bit of everything mixed together. Heartbreak takes over on what should be a joyous occasion, sprinkling a bit of pain into the happiness and visa-versa. It’s a hard line to walk. We rejoice and we weep, sometimes in the same breath. It feels unnatural and sometimes even disrespectful, but yet, it keeps coming.
My life has experienced several new beginnings and many painful endings in the last few weeks.
In the last month, I have moved out of my first house, left the job at my little island church that I loved, and said goodbye to friends who have become my family in the Pacific. Tucking away all of my possessions, not quite sure when I’ll be able to unpack them again, brought more tears than I anticipated. I kept reminding myself that they were just things but tea cups passed down from generations and photographs from my wedding felt a lot like burying memories deep down.
Goodbyes were filled with hope and many alohas (as a friend reminded me, we don’t say goodbye on the islands) but my eyes still brimmed with tears on more than one occasion. These moments were filled with a tense balance between love for each other, gratefulness for the friendship we’ve had, and sorrow for the distance that military life brings over and over again into these relationships.
But there is also joy overflowing in the moments of these days. Joy that looks like my 2 year old brother, who I haven’t seen in a year, squealing my name repeatedly as I load my bags into the trunk of the car at the airport baggage claim. The joy of a dozen children, siblings and cousins, giggling behind the door waiting to yell, “Surprise!” when you finally reach the end of your journey. It looks like enjoying the warmth of a cup of coffee while watching your brother score his first touchdown of the season and sitting around the dinner table with family. Holding my new little family members in my arms and watching their tiny, infant lips curl into a sleepy smile, fills my heart to bursting. Even simple things, like truly being able to curl up with a book or put on fall boots, bring joy to my face.
But even in the joy, there is pain. Like unpacking my suitcase discovering an engagement present from a dear friend had been shattered in the suitcase.
Nothing ever stands on it’s own. For everything, there is a season.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-5, ESV
We should not be surprised when life takes unexpected turns. As believers, we anticipate that our lives will be a blend of both the bitter and the sweet seasons of live. What we don’t anticipate is the overlap in these seasons. When new life bursts forth as another ends, it’s hard to know how to feel. So we live in the tension of knowing God’s goodness, of knowing the ending, while also living in now that’s still marred by sin.
As a Christian, I am equipped for these joy and sorrow days. In our weaknesses, in our pain, we are carried by the joy of the Lord. He is our strength and our salvation. Our weak efforts and feeble joy will never match what God has already accomplished and what He will bring to completion in our life. Our pain is redeemed and our joy is meaningful, because He is good.
Keep pressing into your Savior. Press your heart into His joy and goodness. Let it ignite your joy into a roaring fire and that is save you from the depths of your pain.