(First posted online August 24, 2013)
My Uncle Gordon, (may he rest in peace) was an unassuming man who, on the surface, lived a simple life as a United Methodist minister. He was not a very good preacher, honestly, but he was a top-notch pastor. His abilities as a pastoral counselor are somewhat legendary among those that knew him. He had an interesting perspective on joy and sadness. He said that we all had our favorite things to feel happy or sad about and that we tended to repeat those patterns. I believe he was right.
He also thought that sometimes we just needed to face up to our sadness and stare it in the face for a bit before we moved on. Sometimes those strokes of sadness come from unexpected directions at unexpected times. Sometimes you can just work right through them. But at times, according to Uncle Gordon, we just needed to go sit in the kitchen and do our best “sad” for awhile. Just go sit down and feel terrible for a bit, long enough to know you are a human being and not some kind of robot. Cry if you need to. Get it over with. I think he was right about that too. (True grief can take longer, but it is still something to be worked through. This is not about that.)
I teach a lesson on Elijah sometimes in adult Sunday School that was inspired by my Uncle. He reminded me that when Elijah was calling out to God as he sat in misery under a broom tree that God, when he finally spoke in that still small voice, gave Elijah a list of things to do. If I seem l am happy person it is not because I have no sadness. It is because I give my sadness its chance. I experience it and thank God that I care enough about someone or something to be sad when it is gone or when it ends in disappointment. And then I move on. In truth, emotions are a gift from God, both happiness and sadness. They are different sides of the same coin. Sadness cannot be successfully avoided, but it can be experienced in a better way. This seems an odd statement. But I contend that sadness is to be a part of the life experience and not a way of life. Once you have given sadness its due time get your to-do list out and get after life again.
Taking the time to experience the the joy is an important part of moving through life. One can also get stuck in the joy of a good moment when it is time to move on to new joyous adventures. Live, experience, and take time to feel lie a human being, whether good or bad. Cherish the ability to care enough to feel. Denying and repressing feelings can lead to a bad end. But so can wallowing in them. It is all about balance.
I just had a moment this evening and when I got up from the table I knew I needed to write this down and share.