Recently I was texting with one of my friends about the inevitability of loss that comes with parenting. She was lamenting over the fact that her youngest child was moving on from sleeping in his crib; the crib that all of her children had slept in. A season was passing before her eyes. We agreed: why hadn’t anyone told us how much slow grieving there would be? Moving through seasons and stages of parenting bring gain as our little ones learn and grow. And yet, as they become more independent and autonomous, we walk a thin line between joy and sorrow. There is so much grief and so much gain.
My family is walking through the early felt joy and sorrow of adoption. Just over two months ago, we brought our littlest home from South Korea. Everyone we know has so kindly and genuinely asked us how things are going. Every time we’ve been asked, it’s been difficult to answer. I want to offer a tidy and coherent sentence, but there’s nothing tidy or predictable about the season our family is in. I remember feeling this way years ago, when we first moved home after living overseas and our lives felt forever altered. Friends and acquaintances would ask, “How was it? And we would feel as if there was no adequate answer.
Often there’s an expectation that we ask one another how we are doing and all too often, a flip-side expectation for tidy and predictable responses. And sometimes, our individual joy or sorrow can separate us because we don’t know how to walk this tension in honest community.
Despite the ease of tidy answers, in Galatians 6:2, Paul exhorts the church to “carry one another’s burdens.” Later on in the New Testament, in Romans 12, in a list of how we are called to live in this upside-down revolution of Jesus, it includes that we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” There was an expectation that those he was writing to would have burdens that would be too heavy to bear alone and that the Church should expect life to offer reasons to rejoice and reasons to mourn.
Here are three things I believe we need to live in this tension well:
We need to feel. We need our feelings and we need to name them in community and in intimacy with God. Our feelings cannot lead us, but they can move us to God, soften us, build our empathy muscles and wake us to the reality of our need. In the last two months of our journey, I’ve needed to tell those close to me how scared I have felt. There would be no chance for bravery or help if I didn’t let myself feel in the first place.
We need space. We need margin to notice the tensions in our lives and the lives of those around us. Without space and margin in our lives we cannot give joy or invite others to rejoice with us. When our lives have no margin between activities and engagements and doing all the things, we will not be able to truly carry one another’s burdens or allow others to carry our own.
We need each other. God made us for dependence on Him and he made us to live in community. As Americans, we are known for our individualism. Learning to see and submit to our need for God and others takes work and for many, a constant shifting of perspective. We belong to one another the whole wide world over.
In a world full of broken places, tidiness is irrelevant. We are called to live right in the messy tension of rejoicing and mourning, together. When we do this well, the broken places of the world will see hope rising high on the shoulders of those who carry others and allow themselves to be carried. We will see the face of God in the tension and the world around us will see his love.
Photo credit to Jennifer Driscoll Photography.
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