When joy and sadness live together…and why I haven’t posted since August
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash
Have you ever had a “first Christmas without [insert the name of a family member or friend who died]?”
When people asked you how you were doing, what did you say to them?
I suppose what you felt and said depended on the person who died and your relationship to her or him. If you felt that your relationship with her or him was good and whole, maybe you felt some contentment and gratitude in your grief. If you felt that the person died before you had a chance to make things right or whole, maybe regret made your grief bitter.
When my dad died about seven months ago, our relationship was complete, full, whole. Neither of us had regrets. We didn’t leave anything unsaid. As sad and traumatic as it felt to go through it, our parting was as good as a parting can be.
But I am sad. Very sad.
At Christmas, my sister-in-law asked about my state of heart and mind. I said: “I’m going to be a little sad for the rest of my life.”
On New Year’s Eve, I told an old friend: “I felt sad through the holidays, but I also felt happy. Christmas was no less merry than in the past, but I felt sadness at the same time. I guess that’s just how it will be now.”
Maybe you know the feeling.
When I found out that Dad was sick and would die, I took a grief class at my church. One of the things we talked about is that our culture tends to treat grief like a problem to solve or a thing to hurry through.
But grief is not a problem. It is not a thing to hurry through.
There is nothing wrong with being sad. There is nothing wrong with grief.
Indeed, grief is good because it is a form of gratitude.
Whenever I feel sadness that Dad is gone, it is like a little prayer of thanks for the times when he was here. Grief reminds me to be thankful for Dad.
So I don’t mind being sad. My sadness has a sweetness to it. Being sad does not mean that I cannot be happy, too. I can be both at the same time. Joy and sadness can go well together. Like bacon on a maple doughnut.
So if you are grieving this New Year, may you find yourself close to the Christ who weeps (Gospel of John 11:35). May you find gratitude in your grief. May you find sweetness in your sadness.
Grace and peace.
Now, a note about why I stopped posting to this blog back in August…
One of the most fulfilling and humbling feelings is the one I get when people tell me that something I wrote did some good for them. I am surprised and thankful that this happens as often as it does. Whenever I speak or write, I am trying to announce good news that people need deep in their souls. Nothing is sweeter than finding that the Source of all good news whispered to someone through what I wrote.
The chance to serve you as a channel of good news from God to your soul (whenever we are “lucky” enough for that to happen) is the reason I am sorry that I stopped writing back in August.
I didn’t want to stop, but something amazing happened and I had to take a break from this blog.
Last winter, a generous and kind friend offered to pay my tuition to enroll in the Master of Religious Education program at Rochester University. This came after years of praying that God would make a way for me to finish the theological education I started and stopped 17 years ago. I never dreamed that someone would walk up to me and offer to put me through grad school.
So I accepted the gift without hesitation and stepped up to what must be a clear call from God to submit to this education and formation.
However, to honor God and the gift from my friend, I had to set aside some things to give energy and time to grad school. Since writing theological papers is such a big part of the MRE program, I chose to devote what was once “blog time” to school time.
I also put two of my other favorite activities on hold: Preaching and teaching.
I hope that when I graduate in May 2024, the theological education and personal formation of the MRE program makes my preaching, teaching, and writing so much better for the faith, hope, and love of everyone to whom God sends me.
In the meantime, I will still post here once in a while. The holiday break gave me a few days without school or work, so I had some extra time to write this post for you. You’ll still find new posts here once in a while, but not as often as you once did.
Remember: You don’t need me or what I write. God expresses good news and love to you in a million ways every day. Our problem is never that God is not showing up for us; it’s that we are not paying attention. We do not know how to hear and see.
So, then, as we start 2023, may God give you ears to hear and eyes to see the life and love all around you. If you just make time every day to be thankful, I promise God will speak to you in a way that a thousand blog posts, books, podcasts, sermons, or songs never could.
Grace and peace.