Joy for the hurting.
Joy……for the hurting….
Hardly seems fair, does it? And trust me, I can feel you across the bits and pixels and bytes (I have no idea what those things are – they just sound computer-y) but I invite you to stay with me on this one. I’m figuring it out myself! But I think I may have taken a few steps closer in understanding. So, let’s look at it together, OK?
I’ve been doing lots of reflecting lately, pondering how we get from here to there in life, and it’s still a mystery to me how resiliency works, but I am living proof that it does. The first Christmas after the four Warrens became three, all I felt, (along with a desperate clinging to the other two Warrens) was a sense of numbness and longing so deep I couldn’t see the end of it. The idea of finding joy in the midst of so much sadness was like looking for something I used to have but now had no idea where I’d left it. But time doesn’t stop for joy or for pain and mercifully moved along that Christmas season. And the next. And still another. And while joy and I are still doing that side-eye stare thing that my dog does when he wants to see if I’m still looking at him, it’s no longer my enemy.
This has been a year of growth – of slowly learning to live again, and that no longer feels like quite the betrayal it once did. And one of the things I’ve been up to is completing the college education that I began decades ago. It’s been hard and has come with a price, not only of tuition, but of lost time for others and lots and lots of sleep! But it’s also been the pivoting point on my grief journey that has given me reason to look ahead rather than only behind……
So this past weekend I stood along with several hundred other black-robed graduates in a huge arena, listened to speeches about potential and took that walk across the stage that was the culmination of effort and much loving support. Then something happened that I didn’t expect….as the graduating class of 2018 was conferred and we were invited to move our tassels from the right to the left, I felt such a sense of…..joy. There it was, probably where it’s been all along, but like so many other things it was just hidden above the fog. It felt good to feel it again, and to know that I still could.
After a full day of celebrating and time spent with friends and family who have supported me so faithfully and graciously, I finally settled down at my computer later that evening, still feeling full of love and gratitude for the turn my life is taking. And just like that, came the quick, hot, familiar tears of grief and longing for the one Warren who was not there to share it with. Not that I’d forgotten for even a second (I’d even tucked a picture of the four of us under my cap!) But even as I gave myself permission to have that deep cry that had been building all day, I realized that for the first time, grief wasn’t eating up the goodness of the day as it usually does in its hungry Pac-Man sort of way. Joy was standing up to grief and both were somehow present in that moment.
Because it’s hard to feel joy doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Because we grieve whatever it is we are missing this Christmas season doesn’t mean that joy still doesn’t belong to us. Much like knowing peace even when everything isn’t peaceful, I have learned that we can know joy though everything isn’t joyful.
Oh friends, I understand that the last thing we need is stories of other people’s joy when ours is still lost…..It’s easy to believe that the lights, music and colors of Christmas aren’t for us any longer, but that’s not true. It’s OK to enjoy what we can and save the rest for later, because the true meaning of Christmas, the reason for those lights, the music and all the rest is with us in the person of Jesus Christ, and He cares far more about us and our hearts than any of those things anyway. He is for us, on our side, always with us. He loves us and isn’t turned away by our sorrow, in fact he is drawn to it and lives through every moment with us. He bought that joy for us and is abundantly able to teach us how to find it and how to keep it.
So this is what I’ve learned about joy; it isn’t the opposite of sadness. It is what Jesus brings to us where we are even as we heal and learn to hope. Give it a chance. Let joy stand up to your grief, your loss, your pain and see if they can’t be present in the same space together for you as well.
You are never alone!
So much love,