“Joy… and pain… it’s like sunshine… and rain…” I can remember singing to the top of my lungs to this Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock song back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I always enjoyed the beat of the music in it and the, what felt to me like, upbeat idea of that chorus line. Though, I don’t think I ever really took the time to think about it for what that simple statement actually shows me.
Having my dad pass this past October I have really experienced joy and pain, the pain is probably pretty obvious. It has been sometimes hard and often confusing on what I should feel as I process the grief of him dying at a relatively young age, and unexpectedly at that. I have also wrestled with the joy and pain I have felt throughout life in my relationship with my dad, which adds to the complexities of this grieving process having now lost him.
Processing this recently with a friend, he talked about something he learned from a professor during his Master’s program that basically went like this: “to truly honor your parents, you need to learn to hold both the good and the bad together.” I think in the type of American culture that I grew up in, I have learned to hold a lot of shame over myself for noticing any of the bad in others or even myself for that matter. There was often this idea in my family, and I know it is the same in many others, that in order to respect your family you never talk about any of the shortcomings or bad things about them. “Get over it” is a phrase I’d often hear when wrestling with the bad I experience in others or myself. I know this idea comes from a desire to not tear those down that you love. To focus on the good, the positive.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”Ephesians 4:29
In the Bible I think it can even stem from verses like the one above (Eph. 4:29) Or similarly here: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col. 4:6) Or the many occasions where slander is specifically called out to be far from us as believers. But I think using these verses like this is swinging the pendulum too far the other direction. I think this because when I look at scripture, as I have read through the entire Bible, it is full of stories of these “heroes of the faith” as we can tend to call them in the church. Of all places to see only the good, I think this culture would have you believe it would be in the Holy Bible as it speaks of its “heroes”, but that is not at all what we see. We get the honor of seeing the whole story, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain. When we do, it somehow can make the joy feel that much more joyous, and it can also make the pain feel that much more painful. When Genesis tells us about Abraham’s horrible treatment of his wife Sarah in Egypt, or in Judges as we see how often Samson followed his own desires, speaking of following his own desires we cannot forget King David not just with Bathsheba but at other times throughout his story as well… do these stories of the bad things about these leaders in the faith ruin their story? Did it cancel out their place in history? No, it didn’t do any of these things, but instead allowed us to see that these were real people, that were not perfect just like you and me. They experienced both joy and pain, it wasn’t just roses and rainbows all the time for them, so why would it be that way for any of us today?
As I continue the process of grieving the loss of my dad, I will continue to grow in allowing myself to hold the joy and the pain both of his loss, of the ups and downs of our relationship we had throughout his life, and honor him as the man he was, my dad. And I love him.
How about you? In what ways have you experienced the tension of the joy and pain in your life?