My daily mailing today from the Henri Nouwen Society is a great one:
“Joy and sorrow are never separated. When our hearts rejoice at a spectacular view, we may miss our friends who cannot see it, and when we are overwhelmed with grief, we may discover what true friendship is all about. Joy is hidden in sorrow and sorrow in joy. If we try to avoid sorrow at all costs, we may never taste joy, and if we are suspicious of ecstasy, agony can never reach us either. Joy and sorrow are the parents of our spiritual growth.”
This is good advice for sure. The extreme emotions of joy and sorrow are very much the same. In fact there are times I am sure that we all wish that everything could stay on an even keel and that all things would be moderate and things would remain “steady as she goes.” Life is not quite like that however. Our growth in our spiritual journey is truly parented by joy and sorrow. We are on a wild ride, almost rollercoaster like. There are days and weeks when we love the absolute thrill of getting to the high point of our ride. We love the view, the scenery and the felling that things have crested. At the same time, while we are there, there is no doubt that the coaster will soon spiral down, and sometimes, check that most times, it does so very quickly. That uncontrolled feeling is sometimes terrifying and very unsettling. And yet, we know that this too is a temporary journey that will bottom out and turn around to make the journey again to the high points of our vagabondage. Sometimes the trip from the high to the low is a lurch, and at other times it is a meandering walk. What ever the case, we have to know that Nouwen is right. If we were afraid of agony or sorrow we would never taste the joy. Love and life means taking risks and being vulnerable. If we avoided all pain we would never fall in love, never have kids, find a church, make a new friend, or engage in any form of intimacy with anyone. But heavens, the joy that we would all miss if we avoided those relationships. We cannot separate joy and sorrow. We need to embrace both as a part of the pilgrimage that we are on. God is in the midst of both. That is what makes both feelings so very intense. When we live those moments of joy and sorrow – we are growing! The good news of Jesus is that we do not have to grow alone – we are community and we can live the crests and valleys of this roller coaster together. So…we take the risk and we love – and in that love we will grow.