Right along with my activism and my faith, right along with my best hopes and my busy hands, my surrender and my prayers, I am learning to simply sit in the sadness and allow it to be there with me. I am learning not to pretend that sadness doesn’t exist or that it has an easy answer or that God is to blame. I’m learning to not avoid it or ignore it.
I am learning to lament, to mourn, to weep with those who weep, to take our shared sadness and bewilderment into my own soul too. (Out of Sorts, p.190)
Years ago when I was still in youth ministry, I got one of those dreaded calls.
One of the girls in my group had walked into her house to find her mother dead. These types of things aren’t supposed to happen when you’re a teenager. It’s awful enough when you can see it coming in the distance, when your parents are elderly or in failing health and you’ve lived long enough to gain some experience and context for such an event.
You’re not supposed to lose a parent before you’re allowed to drive a car.
On the way up to the hospital I was running things through in my mind. What could I possibly say that would make any type of difference? This girl is going through something I’ve never had to face. I have zero answers. There is no fix here, no way to salve this pain.
So I went and sat in a waiting room.
I cried along with everyone else gathered.
I hugged her and her family.
I let her know that she was loved and surrounded by people who care.
And then I went home.
Sometimes I wish I was in the prevention business. It would be so much simpler.
I fall into that trap sometimes as a parent. Part of me would like to build this bubble around my kids so they didn’t have to see how dirty and ugly this world can be sometimes. So they wouldn’t have to be picked on or bullied. So they wouldn’t have to have their heart broken. So they wouldn’t have to fall down or make mistakes or experience loss. But I know that’s not realistic.
I can’t keep the pain of the world away, but I can walk beside them so they’re not alone.
We fall into this trap sometimes as Christians, too. We can band together politically and try to legislate morality. We can advocate for laws so that people don’t have to experience the pain of sin and darkness. But that sure seems like a game that cannot be won. People like their freedom, and with freedom comes danger.
We can’t legislate others into good choices, but we can act like Jesus outside of Lazarus’ tomb and weep because people — all of us — bring a lot of pain and suffering into the world. And then we can, like Jesus, work as agents of healing, restoration and reconciliation.
I love how Sarah phrases this reality in her chapter, how she encourages us to obey the sadness we encounter in life.
It’s a truth that is right there in front of me every week as my church takes the Lord’s Supper. Because that is a trip into the depths of darkness.
God became flesh.
All breaking forth into the world.
And we killed him.
Maybe not you and I directly, but humans did.
Because that’s what the world is like. It’s what we do.
And we’re supposed to think about this every week? Yes.
The point isn’t to simply be drawn into the depths of the pain and darkness, but to remember that it is part of our existence. It’s a big part of our story. Real life comes from death. Resurrection follows the cross.
Death, darkness comes first. And it’s something we can’t ignore.
Because that’s where the beauty is found. It’s where the life is. Every good story springs out of conflict or pain. And while we don’t have to court the darkness, we can begin by accepting it. By not ignoring it. By allowing it to be a part of our experience and who we are becoming.
If Light is real then we don’t have to be afraid. We can obey the sadness and confront the darkness.