This month’s pastoral insight comes from my seminary friend, Brook Seaford. Brook is a dad to five wonderfully unique kiddos and a spouse to the phenomenally resilient Kristan. Brook is in the final stages of preparation for ordination in the ELCA; he currently serves as vicar of Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Matthews, North Carolina.
Today I awoke singing and was reminded that I am happy again.
Happy is such a broad term, I guess. And it means different things to different people. But for me, it was that feeling that acts as an elixir to anything negative. It’s that light that chases away the shadows. It’s the warmth that crowds out the cold.
To be fair, these feelings would pop up now and again over the last few years; it’s not as if they were gone forever. But they weren’t as commonplace as they once were. Happiness wasn’t the default experience it once was. I knew it had, in some way, slipped my grip.
But this reemergence prompted me to reflect about the shared experience of grief, sadness, and pain. Life throws curve balls and oftentimes, our situations seem to be the worst of all. But somewhere, someone else is also suffering.
The good news (yes, there is good news) is that we aren’t there forever. And despite our perception, we are never, ever alone. Our God is a God of accompaniment.
One friend of mine was abandoned by her husband with young kids and had to scamble to figure out how to make sense of her unexpected new life. Through grit, determination, and tears, she got to work. Her daughters are now beautiful, smart, and strong young women, and she spends her days helping underprivileged kids. Life is not easy; but it’s rebuilding.
Another friend of mine wrestled with addiction, enduring countless losses, only to reemerge running a successful non-profit.
And there are many similar stories. Perhaps yours is one. Or perhaps you are still in that desert.
At one point or another, we all experience hurt and loss.
At some point, we feel abandoned and alone; heartbroken by the life that was supposed to be or perhaps, never was.
Marriages fail. Addictions destroy. Careers collapse. Illnesses strike.
But God is with us the entire journey.
There were nights when my wife was sick and I anxiously and fearfully awaited the call from the nurses that she had not made it. My house was filled with people who had spent the day preparing us meals and taking care of my kids, and yet I still felt alone. As others slept, all I could do was grip my tear-soaked pillow and scream into it at God, making sure my cries were muffled so no one would be alarmed that the optimistic seminarian was angry at God.
But morning came and she had survived another day. I also, had survived another day. And I realized at that point that I had never truly been alone. God had been with me in Spirit through the night. But also, God had been with me through the care of the nurses, the love and support of my family, friends, and community. God had been there the whole time, walking with me and holding me up.
God was with me the entire journey.
The Bible offers many hopeful stories of the accompaniment of God. The Israelites wandered through the desert, but eventually found home. And that is just one example.
I guess the message in all of this is that, regardless of where you find yourself today; whatever desert you are walking through; however dark your night is; God doesn’t leave you there. You aren’t there forever.
God is with you.
The pain might always endure; we all have scars, some are visible, some are not. But eventually you will emerge and one day you will start to notice that the sun is starting to eek out a little light again.
Food will start to taste good again.
Laughter will reemerge, bubbling up sometimes in the most unexpected of places.
One morning you’ll notice yourself belting out a favorite old song in the kitchen or in the shower or in your car and it will dawn on you that you’re back. The happiness that eluded you has returned like an old friend.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s the postscript.
Written by Vicar Brook Seaford