Thursday, January 27, 2011

Extremes

Monday morning I went outside and my innards froze with the first breath I took; it was eight degrees below zero. By six in the evening it was thirty-eight degrees warmer; the very next morning I dodged rain.

Tuesday evening I basked in the glow of my eldest daughter's success: she received a standing ovation in a packed hall for her documentary on civil rights in the Deep South. On Wednesday morning I contemplated my son's three failing class grades.

Early in the week a committee of nurses praised my commitment to making 2011 a great year. A few days later I was accused of trying to assassinate someone's good reputation and ruin their career.

It's no wonder my sinuses are acting up. It has been a week of extremes.

I am often stoic in times of great celebration. I am definitely NOT the one dancing on the table, or wearing a lamp shade. I suspect it is related to my unwavering belief that life tends to balance out; times of great joy are usually, in my experience, tempered with sorrow and loss. So when everyone is throwing their proverbial hats in the air, I am considering where the shoe will drop.

This isn't something I am necessarily proud of, nor recommend. I would much rather celebrate when celebration is due….yet when I look at the joy in the faces around me, my heart worries about sorrow like a parent for a child. I don't want their joy to end, but I know it will, eventually. Sorrow and suffering will come, as inevitably as snow in Buffalo. My heart longs to avoid it, alleviate its effect.

Sorrow and suffering are inevitable; I have intellectualized the opportunity they present for sanctification, but that cognitive understanding seems to waver in its journey to my heart. I envy those who embrace joy and pain with equanimity and poise, taking each for what they are worth.

My aunt once adopted a monstrously large dog who was as gentle as a lamb…unless you stepped on his paws. He was abused for much of his early life; his original owner beat his paws with a broom handle. He remembered that pain, and everyone had to respect that by walking gingerly. I suppose many of us are like that dog, nursing memories and holding on to fears.

I think it's time to loosen up a bit.

Jesus is about joy: a joy born of love, promise, and hope. Despite the pain and suffering so prevalent Jesus came to fill us with a joy so great that it elevates our sinful, distrustful natures to a greater plane, one marked by confidence in the promise and hope our faith guarantees. One that allows for rejoicing and celebration, no matter how extreme life can be.

As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. John 15:9-12
Now, to get that down to my heart…

6 comments:

  1. So much of life is extremes. I figure God is teaching us something with everything. Now if I could just figure out what He has in mind...

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  2. A good reminder that life is often like a tennis match--back and forth between good times and bad. We're not guaranteed a perfect life, just that God will be with us through it all and give us the grace we need to endure. I understand how you feel. I've really wrestled at times with why I've been through a number of the problems I've experienced, but I'm learning to trust in the Lord.

    Evan

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  3. David,

    You describe me very well. Though, I'm usually smiling and cheerful, I'm cautious and wary of the rhythms of life. Tears often flow down my cheeks in prayer and I can feel deep sorrow. Joy is a mystery.

    After describing "perfect joy" which looks nothing like the worldly concept, St. Francis concludes: "for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, "What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?" But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, 'I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Amen."

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  4. Barb, the figuring out part is the challenge for so many of us, myself included. I seem to be able to talk to my kids about that with some fairly convincing advice but for myself I'm not so certain.

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  5. Evan, I am so happy to hear your comment on trust; I know this is my greatest challenge, and St. Faustina reminds me of that constantly. I know that much of her peace and trust was based on her innate ability with God's grace to live in the present moment. That is surely a challenge when worrying about the next event, deadline, kid's play practice, tuition payment, etc., but I know there is peace in there somewhere.

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  6. Joann, thanks for St. Francis' words. They put our joys in perspective. God bless you!

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I am always interested and appreciative of your comments and thank you for taking the time. God bless you.