"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Living in the Real World

Sometimes you just have to laugh. 

Being unemployed has put me on a shoe-string budget. A few weeks ago I wanted to treat my best friend to a birthday celebration. Lack of money forced me to be creative. When I saw a free fiddle fest featuring “Barrage” at the Redlands Bowl, a picnic dinner seemed the perfect solution. 

So, I invited a few of our friends and made a huge chicken pasta salad. Some punch in my freezer from another event would supply ready-made drinks. I took a BIG Tupperware container to put it in and the soda that needed to be added. That night when we got ready to use it, I reached in the ice chest and pulled out the red package hoping it had thawed. But instead of the punch we all expected—that red packaging contained a rather deceptive pork roast. Despite my embarrassment, we all just had to laugh.  

Yet, when our worst fears materialize, sometimes all we can do is cry. I’ll never forget a night some years ago when a crisis with a loved one made me face a fear so bad, I’d never even imagined such a scenario. Alone, I sobbed long into the night as the reality of my loss set in. 

The next day, completely depleted, I went to church hoping for some relief from my broken heart. Walking up the steps toward the sanctuary, I saw a dear friend coming toward me with deep concern on her face. I’ll never forget the moment she said, “Are you all right? You were on my mind so much during the night, all I could do was cry. I knew something was horribly wrong.” Her eyes filled with tears as she once again asked if I was okay. 

How did she know? Having a friend, who shared my burden, helped me realize that I wasn’t alone, and that Someone far greater than me cared about my grief. That reality provided the glimmer of hope I needed.

There’s a huge difference between despair and sorrow. Despair leads to depression and puts us in a black pit that seems impossible to climb out of. And, perhaps it is without getting help from someone outside the situation. But the tears that come with pure sorrow can be one of God’s greatest gifts. 

By giving ourselves permission to grieve, cry, mourn,  and work through the loss of something we held dear--a job, a marriage (no matter how difficult), a home, health, and so forth--we can come to the place of finding real comfort. Perhaps that's because as we work through the pain, we deal with our emotions in a healthy way. Sobbing can help relieve stress and frustration. It can deplete us of “self” and help us recognize our need for a fresh perspective bigger than our own. Shedding tears can help wash away the worst of the pain. Maybe it’s in that process that we can resolve deep feelings of loss, betrayal, and bitterness, and come to understand invaluable lessons about our own shortcomings that would never otherwise reveal themselves. Such understanding can give our suffering meaning and purpose and might even turn whatever tragedy we've endured into a treasure-laden experience, albeit one we never would have chosen.

When people around me grieve, my natural instinct is to try and comfort them by saying, “don’t cry.” Yet, perhaps it’s much better to give those I care about, including myself, permission to express their pain and then just weep with them.

Reality can be tough, there's no doubt about it. In order to move forward it's important to make sure we're not in denial. That's tomorrow's topic.

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