This Beautiful Dark Life

The earth wakes up slowly, like one giant yawn. The air, still damp with morning dew, carries on its waves the sound of distant echoing birds, murmuring back and forth, in their own song-language. Inside, the tea kettle begins a low-pitched hum, gradually working up to the familiar, steady whistle.

My morning is slow and easy, restful and sweet. I spend it scrolling through various film scores and finding the ones I fell in love with during the film. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the tracks used for the sorrowful parts of the stories. This is the kind of music in which one can almost taste the emotion of the characters: Jenny’s Grave from the Forrest Gump score, Valley of the Shadow from Little Women.

It is in these songs that I feel deeply. There is something different in this music.

As children, we long for things we cannot have. Little things that seem like massive things to our small hearts. To stay awake and play when it is nap time, to have a sweet when mother says no, to stay outside with friends when father calls us in. These are the difficulties of childhood. It is not until many years later, when we are grown, that we realize how sweet it was to be a child – to have someone responsible for us, to go to sleep at night without a care. While we are children, we cannot see these truths, as our eyes are small.

There are still others whose childhoods are filled with fear, sorrow, anguish. In the midst of these heartbreaking realities, the good is found in making it through, and the steadfast hand guiding us in the valleys’ midst. We come out on the other side, and find that we are strong, powerful, weak, broken, yet prime candidates for healing and restoration, and we choose. We choose the high road to restoration and watch as He makes all things new and redeems all the hurt and pain. And it is there that we find the goodness, the sweetness. It is there that our eyes see that He was holding onto us all along.

Wedding days arrive and we feel the exuberance of the joining of two lives, the peace and love that comes from the knowledge of a secure partnership, a covenant that is made to last forever. It is one of the sweetest, most beautiful, most joyful parts of life, and most would look to it as “the goodness”, yet still there exists a sadness here, as well. For we are saying goodbye to something in order to grasp hold of something else. In marriage, we leave behind our previous life, all of our childhood, and we let go of the ties we have to our parents, in order to form a new family, a new union. And there is loss. We are losing a part of ourselves to make room for a whole new part of ourselves to spring up. It is wonderful, it is beautiful, yet still, there is loss.

Babies are born and we celebrate the incredible gift and beauty of a new life, and feel a massive love for our own “creation”. The bitterness is trudging through all of the sleepless nights, the endless crying, the emptying of ourselves, the headache of not knowing what to do, not knowing how to be a parent, but giving it our all anyway. In the midst of one of the greatest joys of life, there is strong difficulty, strong testing of who we are. It is in the moments of trial in parenting that we are stretched, molded, made more into who He desires us to be.

Funerals come and we feel the deep ache and longing for what is wrong to be made right again. Something deep within our souls whispers, “This is not how it’s supposed to be.” Grief floods our hearts, and the searing pain of loss is so tangible, so poignant. Tears are shed and many a night is spent tossing and turning and begging for answers. And yet, even in the most unimaginable pain, a sliver of hope is there. It may be hard to find, and even harder to embrace, but it is there. This hope that shines a small glimmer of light into our darkness, whispers the answer to our longing, “This is not how it will always be.”

Our sorrows hold a power that not many choose to unlock – and that is the power to feel. To fully feel every experience, vibrantly and colorfully, is a gift that not many will choose. It takes courage to feel. It takes a brave soul to open their heart up to great joy and unimaginable pain. But this bravery brings with it the gift of abundant life.

We were meant in this life to be overwhelmed – by joy and by sorrow. We were meant to cry tears of happiness and tears of grief. Are we really fully alive if we only open ourselves to one or the other? No, to be alive we must receive both gifts.

Gifts.

How can sorrow be a gift?

Because without it, we cannot share in Christ’s sufferings. To embrace the gift of suffering is to embrace our Lord Jesus Christ. Without it, we miss a part of Him. And we miss a part of life.

Something amazing happens when we realize that all of life is an intermingling of the bitter and the sweet, and we cannot have one without the other. No season of life is purely good or purely bad. There is good, and bad, in every single part of life. When we embrace this, we find true joy.

In each season, one will feel bigger than the other, maybe to the point of outweighing the other. We’ve all had times when the joy far outweighs any minor difficulty, and we’ve all had times when the darkness seems to swallow up any joy whole.

In times of mourning, we can find ourselves pushing away the small joys that God gives. We dismiss them in our pain. To many, feeling any small bit of happiness in a season like that, diminishes our grief. We think that allowing ourselves to enjoy or take delight in something, means that we are ignoring or forgetting the loss we are mourning, not giving it the proper response it is due. We feel that it is wrong to feel any sort of happiness in the face of such significant loss.

Likewise, in times of great rejoicing, we often find ourselves stuck when difficulty pops up in the midst of our celebration. Either we zone in and devote all our attention to the frustration, which causes us to not be able to fully enjoy life, or we falsely block it out of sight, out of mind, where it eats away at our heart and our joy, subconsciously.

And yet we can say, “I will take the entirety of what this season has to offer. I will take both the good, and the bad. I will not remove the tiny rays of sweetness from my dark season of mourning and grief. I will not remove the small frustrations and pains from my season of plenty and blessing. I will accept – and be thankful for – it all.

So we say farewell to today and, thankful for what God gave in it, we posture our hearts to receive whatever He may give tomorrow, whether it be sweet or bitter, for everything He gives is good, and what seems not good is used for good. Our hands are open, not clinging too tightly to what is placed in them day by day, but allowing all His gifts to freely come and go as He sees fit.

Out the window, the sun pulls the sky down like a canvas, as another day draws to an extravagant, colorful close. A deep, dark blue is ushered in, like the grand finale of a day that runneth over with God’s grace. I step out onto the deck, close my eyes, and feel the bittersweet intermingling of it all hanging in the air, in that one fleeting golden moment when daylight lets go slowly, and gives way to nightfall. I exhale, and feel the gratitude well up in my soul.

“Thank you.”

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