Today I spent the majority of my time prepping for Sunday. I’m preaching for the first time at my church which I’m excited about, but also feel a little bit of pressure to do well. I’ve also spent a lot of time talking to my friend Mona about her company and the ministry of one of her friends and I’ve started to get some clear direction to some of my own next steps in life and career, which is exciting. I spent a little time today looking into some graduate programs and I’ve been getting a little excited about what’s ahead.
Then the George Zimmerman verdict is read. Not guilty. The African-American community is again told that their lives have less value. When the same law used to acquit George Zimmerman is used as a weapon against an abuse victim, we have some serious problems. Later in the evening, a news report comes that a young, talented actor died today of an apparent drug overdose. The sadness is not that a celebrity is dead but in a reminder of the vicious grip that addiction has on so many.
These plus the situations in Darfur, Egypt, Syria, Quebec and many other places around the world can bring me back down and make me feel almost guilty for being excited about my own future. I realize that’s irrational and I should celebrate life’s ups but it’s hard when friends are in the midst of really difficult circumstances and you want to share your joy but feel it’s inappropriate in light of their current circumstances.
This week our Jewish brothers & sisters will be observing Tisha B’Av, the saddest day in their calendar. This day (Monday into Tuesday) marks the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the accompanying loss of life. Rabbi Michael Bernstein wrote a piece over at the Huffington Post on the relationship between anger and sadness. While both come from similar root words, Bernstein writes, “it is anger that often is emphasized as the emotion most likely to drive us away from our better purposes and occlude our experience of G*d’s goodness. Anger can make us think of ourselves more than we think about others.”
I think in American Christianity we don’t make room for sorrow enough. We give people a couple of weeks to be sad after the death of a loved one, but otherwise, we think we should be happy all the time. There is an appropriate time for sorrow, like today when we are faced with how far we have yet to go when it comes to racial equality. When policies are made that take food from the mouths of children. When guns are valued more highly than the lives of kids.
There is a place for sorrow in the holy. Bernstein goes on to say, “I think that the question that confronts us in this place and at this season may be how to find the sacred even in sorrow. How to find a place for sadness as well as the wholeness of a broken heart.
May we open our hearts to the full range of what makes us human and dedicate even our brokenness to the work of repairing the world.”