Earlier in August ago we spent our Saturday morning at the memorial service for our niece, Amanda. It was beautiful and worshipful, a celebration of a precious life and a faithful God. But it was still a memorial service for a little girl who died one month before her eleventh birthday. There’s no making that okay. I cried through the first few songs we sang and I kept crying through the slide show until I could almost literally feel my heart switch off, as if to say, “That’s enough–I can’t hold one more ounce of sadness right now.”
Later that same day we took our kids to a local water park. I didn’t have my phone out to take pictures (because, water…) so all evening I was trying to burn images into my head: Abby and her cousin Grayson, laughing in their matching green life jackets, bobbing up and down in the water of the lazy river, climbing on Stephen like little wet lizards. Jem in the baby splash pad, squealing with delight, grabbing at the shooting streams of water, hugging the poles as water splashed him in the face. I watched him play in the perfect light of the soft evening sun and I felt almost the same sensation I had felt earlier that morning: the pitiful protest of my finite heart: “Stop, with all the happiness. It’s too much–I can’t hold another ounce.”
Conventional wisdom says that you get through the horrible times by storing up and concentrating on the happy times, and that the goal of a balanced and satisfying life is to try to make sure that on the final score sheet, the moments of joy outweigh the moments of grief.
So when we’re confronted with news of stillborn babies and children with cancer and beheadings overseas and nuclear standoffs, we hold up our iPhones in self-defense, snapping pictures of our smiling faces, hoping to keep our souls in balance. But when we’re honest at the end of the day, we know that it doesn’t really work that way.
Funerals and fires and farewells hurt in an obvious way, but our dearest moments bring a grief of their own, because we know that before we’ve even had a chance to soak up all the happiness, the moment will already be gone.
The only way to survive deepest griefs and fleeting joys is to see them both as arrows pointing you to a new idea all together: There Must be More.
This sadness can’t be all there is.
This happiness can’t be all there is.
This world is too much for us, because we are too much for this world: we are made for somewhere else.
So in the funerals, in the riots, in the slums, in the wakeful nights, in the hospital rooms, we pray…
At the birthday parties, at the wedding receptions, in the delivery rooms, at the splash pad, we pray…
Come, Lord Jesus.