I first wrote this blog post in 2008, but I thought it related to a lot of what the church family is experiencing this week.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15 NIV)
There’s a great line in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. After Hermione has explained all the conflicted emotions of another character to Harry, their friend Ron says, “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.” Hermione retorts with a snarky comment, but I rather sympathize with Ron. What are we supposed to do when our feelings are at such great variance within us?
On Sunday when I went to church, I was quite possibly the happiest woman on the planet (not an exclusive title). I had just gotten engaged and was looking forward to telling everyone. But that Sunday, our lead pastor announced he was resigning, which took many by surprise. Though I felt loved and appreciated during the announcement of my news, the mood of the service was somber, and rightly so; regardless of whether we saw it coming, we will be sorry to see him go.
The sermon began with, “I don’t know how to do this.” I think that’s a sentiment echoed by many. How are we supposed to grieve with our friends who are mourning and still celebrate with those who rejoice? Won’t somebody inevitably feel slighted? We hope not, but it’s a harder calling than it may sound like at first.
The hardest part, I think, is that it’s awkward. Many places create an expectation that we should be cheerful all the time, because at least uniformity is predictable. The opposite can also happen—when everyone around us is sad, we feel as though we should be too.
Truthfully, it does feel weird to be wearing my “perma-grin” when people around me are crying. But it would be false of me not to, because I do feel great joy, albeit not for the same reason they’re crying. What I love about Creekside is that we’re willing to live with that tension and discomfort for the sake of being honest with one another.
There’s also a more subtle difficulty in sharing emotions, and that’s where Ron ran into trouble. We have to believe that people can be genuinely happy for one situation at the same time as they’re genuinely sad about another. Specifically, that others are still sharing our joy or sorrow, even if they’re exhibiting the opposite. Let me assure you that it’s possible. God wouldn’t command us to do something if it weren’t! I also know it from recent experience. Sometimes you might feel like you’re going to explode, but it hasn’t happened yet.
So feel free to laugh, or cry, or laugh and cry at once! You and all your circumstances are welcome here.