A Heavy Heart

Why do I feel as if my heart is broken, that my lungs are incapable of filling, that I am drowning in grief? Why? I have a good job, a roof over my head, safe, clean, reliable transportation, decent clothes on my back, my family is all relatively healthy, new grandchildren to coo over and to love…yet I feel a weight of grief upon me that I cannot bear.

I am grieving for the people, men, women, children, running for their lives, filling refugee camps with little hope for a better life, for a future. I am grieving for families who have lost loved ones to hatred, to violence to persecution. I am grieving for a country where there are police killing her citizens unjustly, and with little prosecution for the wrong-doers. I am grieving for a land where a young man sits in a prayer service and then gets up and kills 9 people. Why? Because they aren’t white. There is little I can say that is as ugly as that.

I am grieving for the horror of a man losing his legs and spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. I am grieving for the world that I thought was so sunny and cheerful and bright, but is filled with so much sorrow.

I know this isn’t the whole picture, but today, right now, this is what I’m looking at; at a world where politicians start out idealistic and end up self-serving, double-talking fools; a world where there are few who can be trusted, few whom I can believe. But it’s also a world where I am disappointed in myself. I am neither as good as I thought, nor as wise. I am not as strong as I believed, nor as courageous. I’m not as noble as I wish to be. I have failed myself.

I don’t want to end on this note, because I can’t. I can’t believe that this is all there is. And for some reason, it seems to me that the beauty is all the more beautiful because of the imperfections. Can that be right?

I recently sent a thank you note to a friend. I thumbed through my stack of cards for just the right one and came across one that was handmade by a nun I know from a monastery I have visited. I bought it two or three years ago, and it seemed perfect for the occasion. When I turned it over, I realized that at some point in it’s time spent on my side table, someone had used it as a coaster. It had ring marks from a glass. I sighed and thumbed through my stack again. I was still drawn to that one card, not because of its imperfections, but because it said something to me. That card was not a simple piece of card stock purchased in bulk at a chain store, it was handmade with love and prayers by someone I know! And it was intended to express thanks in a special way to a special person for a special gift. Despite it’s flaws, I wrote my thanks and more on that card, including my thoughts how we too have seen some wear, but are not the less beautiful or useful because of it. I hope my friend understands what I was trying to say. Somehow the beauty of that card was more compelling for the marks of use. I can’t really explain it.

So I’m thinking that perhaps the griefs and ugliness, the marks of use and abuse that this world has, somehow point all the more toward the beauty. Somehow, the ugliness makes the beauty of joy, or happiness, of giving and sacrifice, of love and devotion, of hope and courage all the more real, all the more solid and all the more beautiful for being able to hold up against the darkness.

Into this darkness a Light has come and that Light has pushed back the darkness. Oh the darkness is fighting, but in the end, the Light must win. I am turning from the darkness to the Light. Hallelujah!  I must make this choice again and again and again, as the weight of this grief seems so much more solid than the happiness I used to believe was the light. Now I am beginning to see that what I once saw as light and joy and happiness, was simply a fraud.  Maybe not a fraud, exactly, but like attending a carnival.  The music and lights and cotton candy and rides twirling one about seem like happiness at the moment, but it is fleeting and shallow, momentary and unreal.  The more real is in the light in the trees like sparkles on a breeze-swept sea. The more real is in the laughter of a boy enjoying pouring water into a volcano formed of sand in the playground as he plays with his grandparents. More real is the light in the eyes of a husband when he sees his wife come through the door of his hospital room each day after she gets off work.  More beautiful than the airbrushed model are the laugh lines on the faces of my best friends, whose faces have formed from their smiles.

It occurs to me that I have been looking at the horrors and sadness in this world, and there is plenty to look at, for sure.  What I NEED to do is to look at the light.  Not deny the pain, not deny the sorrow, the grief, or the horror, but to look to the one who is our comfort in sorrow, the one who makes beauty from the ashes of our lives, who restores when the locust destroys. I need not turn from the the darkness as much as I need to turn toward the light and let the light illuminate the darkness.  Less Law and Order, more Ancient Faith Radio, if you know what I mean.  Less news, more prayer.

In photography it is all about light.  Take the same person, same expression, and sit them in the dark and what do you have? A bad photo.  Set a light source in the right spot and you have magnificence.  Set that person where the light beams fall through a window and illuminate a hint of sweet child toes, the curve of a lip, the tips of eyelashes, put a touch of reflection in the eye, the glow on the hair, and you have something spectacular.  Full light?  Just as in the full light of Christ, it is too much to look upon, too glorious, the camera cannot see, cannot display the beauty, but when we reflect the light, when it shines off of us? Oh, then the camera can capture beauty.

This is not to say that I have found my way out of horror, but to say that perhaps I can see the way out.