Joy in the Midst
Good night, Beloved. I hope all is well with you. If you don't know it by now, my declaration is always "All is well." It is taken from a quote attributed to Julian of Norwich who said,
“All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
I took liberties with it and declared "All is well." Yesterday, I attended a "Homegoing Service." For those of you not of the black diaspora in the South, this is otherwise known as a funeral. Yet we don't speak of it as such and I will tell you why.
Death is the one subject that no one wants to talk about; except maybe those who have made it their business to comfort those left behind by death's arrival. We all will pass that way at some time or another (save that the Rapture does not arrive first - email me if you want to understand more about that). I digress.
I went to be present with the family and to honor the man who touched my life a long time ago. It was a beautiful service, if beauty can be said to abide in such a place. This is also my second one since the beginning of this year - the first being a relative of my husband.
In both services, there was an odd mixture of sadness, grief, praise, excitement, laughing, crying, and dancing. I say "odd" because most people don't think of these things as anything but a place of deep grief and heaviness. Now that I think about it, I also watched the service of our former US President George Bush. There was no dancing in that one, but quite a bit of laughter.
At some point or another, we will all become acquainted with death in some way. These services are a stark reminder of the reality that this life is temporal. Which brings me to the very point that I want to make to you tonight, Beloved.
"Time if filled with swift transitions. Naught on earth unmoved can stand. Build your hope on things eternal. Hold to God's unchanging Hand."
That line is from the very first church hymn that I learned in full. It is replete with references to eternity and declarations of the temporary nature of our current existence. It reminds us over and over within its verses that putting our hope in what we see with our natural eyes is foolish indeed.
Where is "joy" in the midst of this? I tell you it is in knowing that this life is temporary.
In all three of the services that I have previously mentioned, there were many stories shared about the person and their impact on the world around them. They all helped people, loved people, and had an undying devotion to something larger than themselves.
And it is in knowing this that I find joy. Too many of us worry about tomorrow to the detriment of today.
When people who have chosen to make a difference disappear from this life, it leaves us with an emptiness that cannot be explained. But in that emptiness is a joy that is equally hard to explain.
When my Father died, I remember a couple of months later driving in to work on a beautiful, sunny day and suddenly remembering the joy of working in the garden with my Dad.
When my Mother died, I remember sitting on the side of my bed grieving with large tears that suddenly turned to unexplained joy when I remembered how she taught me to "talk to God. He can hear you - don't be afraid. He hears your prayer."
And in those ways what seemed like a deep pit suddenly turned into a light. Tears fall even as I type this. But joy is present. It's like dancing in the rain.
What I need to tell you tonight is this: your life may not be the best right now. You may be going through a difficult time. Someone may have broken your heart. You may be in financial trouble. You may have lost your job. You may have lost a loved one. But I need to tell you that in all of your sorrow, grief, anger, and sadness, you do NOT have to lose joy.
Joy comes to you when you look around and thank God for the smallest things. When you see beyond the difficulty and grasp the light. When you believe that "All is well." This is joy.
Embrace it, Beloved. It will help you. You can have joy in the midst of your pain.
And "All shall be well."