Tuesday, August 23, 2016
A Happy, Broken Heart: The Balanced Life
"Rejoice with those who rejoice…sorrow with those who sorrow." Romans12:15
He told the story of his alcoholic son, clean and sober in this present, this gift of now, playing with his beloved granddaughter. The pleasure of watching his child and his child’s child share a bowl of cereal filled W.’s eyes with tears of joy. He had lived years of hell while alcoholism chipped away at his son’s life, but not today. Today his recovering son was in relationship, and not with a bottle. I could barely contain the lump in my throat, so great was the joy in my heart as I listened to this man in his 70’s spill his happy words. I rejoiced with one who rejoiced. This was a gift. A gladness not linked to my own current circumstantial pain, but a true, deep down joy. I was experiencing something outside myself, a pure emotion of happiness that surprised me, delighted me, made me want more…
Social media is bubbling over right now with bittersweet photos of fresh, young college students packing bags, hugging parents, and setting out for school and dreams and a future. Mom’s post their happy/sad pictures of kids waving goodbye, playing one last game of cards, packing their cars. I crack a little, counting losses that I have experienced, missing the rejoicing that can be mine. Self pity begs entry, looking for a way to keep me from the balanced life of Romans 12:15. Today, I refuse to let the monster in.
I think of my dear friend who lost her first-born son at the tender age of 13. Another with a disabled child who will never wave goodbye for a dorm, but to whom she must wave goodbye for a special supervised group home for the severely disabled. My own daughter bends under the affliction of a traumatic brain injury, and the ripple effect of battling her own demons. Making it through another day is newsworthy. But we don’t post these things on Facebook. Some are not buying books, but buying time, sick with cancer, sick with addiction, sick of mind, sick in body, sick and tired. The tentacles of grief threaten. I pray for strength to comfort, to console, to lament in a healthy way. To hurt but also to heal.
It seems strange, these bedfellows of rejoicing and sorrowing, both alive in my happy, broken heart.
The beautiful, the hard, the ugly and the sweet, all these are part of the landscape of a whole life. Jesus loved a good meal with His friends, and agonized under the burden of the rejection of all His friends. He rejoiced at a wedding and wept at a grave. He experienced the full range of human emotion, unfiltered and full on. He did not turn to chemicals, people, food, sex, tv, video games, gambling, or the ten thousand other distractions, numbing agents or addictions to dull the pain or artificially increase the pleasures of life. He lived in perfect balance, rejoicing with those who rejoiced, sorrowing with those who sorrow.
He still does so today. How glad must His heart be to watch as a proud Father when a young man or woman strides into their future, full of hope and promise? How glad I can find myself, rejoicing for my friends whose children are blessed with such possibilities! What a terrible loss, if hell can hold heaven hostage because we cannot sing in the choir of another’s happy day.
And how too must we remember in our rejoicing the sad ones among us. To send flowers,remembering one lost…to call with a memory…to bring a joke with a pie: to be like St. Francis who prayed: “grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console”.
The balanced life of Christ is the example. As usual, His great word lays out the simple but difficult path for a life of love. A trail marked with both light and shadow.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,