I tweeted something about bawling my eyes out in the first chapter, because it was so incredibly sad. I had to stop reading the book for a little bit (weeks, maybe) just to regain my composure. My psyche has been a bit off lately, anyway, as it's been overloaded with much to think on: the twins, moving on from my job, what I'll be doing next year (because I don't know exactly...), the girls I will not get to coach, the people who dislike me because of my coaching decisions, the students who need their parents to be parents, and (mostly) that orphanage in the path of dysentery and all the lives affected. It's all been messing with me. Truth be told, it's probably messing with me in a good way, but it has not been what I would call "enjoyable." There were a several days when I had a hard time finding the joy I knew should be everywhere.
For sure, my students have noticed it. I have been on edge. Jokes have not been funny. I have been annoyed at their little "crises" about getting dumped or having friend fights. I'm not saying their problems aren't a big deal, but I had a hard time caring about some minor high school problem when I knew the weight of big problems worldwide. (Here I feel it's important to point out that I do understand the high school psyche is very me-focused. Let's not even talk about my crises as a high schooler...."I got a 96%? Why not 100%? Everything I do MUST BE PERFECT, and I will stress about it ALL DAY LONG and into the night...")
So when I regrouped and picked up the book again, I was relieved to read this line:
“I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy, even in the here and now, they are change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world."
You mean I can live joyfully in the midst of darkness and suffering? For over a month, I had been weighted down with the knowledge of heartache, suffering and loss in the world. I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't know how to continue living life normally when so much darkness was engulfing the lives of others.
But this little gem--his nugget of Truth--was good for my soul. It gave me permission to live fully, to enjoy my boys at home without worry, to relish my run in the "feels-like-6-degrees" morning air. How freeing to be told it was possible--that it is GOOD--to live joyfully! Voskamp (the author) makes a great point...standing with the suffering will not prohibit them from suffering. Should I ignore their suffering? Heck no. There is a time to mourn and to stand for injustices, but I don't have to feel obligated to suffer when there is a reason to be thankful, and there is always a reason to be thankful.
I am joyful. I am thankful. I am sometimes very sad about the darkness (dysentery, for one) in the world and I will do my best to shed a light in and on that darkness, but I choose joy when it's all around me, particularly when it can help "bring the fullest Light to the world."