Are You too Sad to Sing?

broken instrument

Not too long ago I was feeling lethargic, sad, depressed…whatever you want to call it. I had no energy, no joy, and little interest in things outside of my immediate family. I was sharing my sad state with some wise women I know and one of them suggested that I was “in exile.”

The image was one of the Israelites and their period of exile in the desert. There are many ways we can end up in the desert: Losing a job, the death of a loved one, a broken relationship, being unhappy in a job…the list is endless and my list included all of those.

One of the wise women suggested that, when you go into exile, you have to decide what to leave behind. You can only carry so much when you’re wandering in the desert. I had to think about what I needed to let go. For me, it was my plan for my future, my power and influence, and most sadly, many relationships. I can’t say what you might need to let go of to survive your exile, that’s between you and God. What is too heavy for you to carry? What is unnecessary for the trip?

The Israelites ended up in exile a lot, as do we. One of their exiles was an exile of captivity by an enemy. They recorded part of that experience in Psalm 137. It says, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.  There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’

“How can we sing one of the glad songs of the Lord when we are in a foreign land?”

That is exactly how I felt. I could not sing. I didn’t have a song in me. And that was okay.(tweet this)  It’s okay not to sing when you feel you’ve been taken captive by life and forced into a foreign land; a desert.

I want to remember the first exile for God’s people: they were headed to the promised land. They had to trust God and Moses all the while they ate manna, and quail, and whined and complained. Their shoes did not wear out. They kept walking by faith. And in their subsequent personal or corporate exiles, they were always headed back to the promised land.

clearness committee

Talking with these wise women helped me to give myself permission not to sing, and I was also reminded that I was heading to the promised land. Whatever is next, I’m ready.

Have you ever been in a desert place, unable to sing? What helped you get through it? If you are in one now, you are not alone. We walk with you.

 

 

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Giving Grace to Your Enemies

friendship

I witnessed the most amazing thing the other day at the elementary school where I’m a counselor. It actually brought tears to my eyes. Two of the fourth-grade boys were dragged into my room minutes before the bell rang. Their teacher said they’d been playing a game, and one got frustrated and started punching the other. The odd part of the story was the one throwing the punching was the least likely fighter I’d ever seen. I’ll call him Pete. Pete is scrawny, an off-the-charts genius, and tends to burst into tears when he is frustrated. But he is close friends with boy # 2, whom I’ll call Billy.

Now Billy is also a genius (I work at a school full of geniuses, literally), but he is stockier and hard-headed with a bad temper. When he gets frustrated, things tend to fly. Billy’s least favorite thing is to admit it when he is wrong. His favorite thing is to make people laugh, and Pete is his number one fan. Pete is the moon to Billy’s sun. And they have been friends for a long time.

So they were dragged into my office after they were playing a game and Billy started taunting Pete, saying mean things like, “you’re a weakling.” Pete finally lost it and charged into Billy, fists flying. He had to be pulled off of Billy and when they arrived in my office, Pete was crying, shaking, and his fists were still clenched. He was MAD!

Now the amazing part of the story is when Pete started to pound Billy, the bigger boy did not fight back. He refused, even though he could have snapped Pete in two like a twig.

I walked the boys through the fight reminding them of their long friendship. They both knew they’d been in the wrong. They knew what other choices they could have made instead. I pointed out that Billy was being mean to Pete and that Pete should not have hit Billy. But, I also pointed out that I was glad Pete stood up for himself (though he needed to do it without fists) and that it was good that Billy didn’t fight back.

Now, here’s the part that made me cry. When they got up to leave, Billy grabbed Pete from behind and held on tight. Pete tried to pull away but Billy wouldn’t let go. “I’m sorry,” he said over and over. Finally, Peter turned around and hugged him back. “I’m sorry too,” Pete said. The boys left happy, their friendship restored.

I was struck by Billy’s actions. He does not like to admit he’s wrong, but his friendship with Pete was more important than his need to be right. He held on until he was forgiven.

In a world where people are quick to bully one another, to be separated over religious, political and racial differences, this desperate act of Billy’s got my attention. How willing am I to accept the blame when I am wrong? To what levels will I go to restore a relationship? It’s so much easier to hurl insults from afar and sit in my self-righteous indignation than to close the gap to a fellow human and ask forgiveness.

 

rembrandtvanrijn_thereturnoftheprodigalson

But Jesus shows us a different way. He is the prodigal father that searches the horizon and runs to his wayward son when he sees him in the distance. He is the good shepherd that looks for a lost sheep until it is found. He is the one that holds us tight and refuses to let us go until his love breaks us and we turn around and hug him back. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

So, who do you need to move toward today? Who needs you to hug them and hold on until they forgive you? Who needs you to make the first move? This is my commitment today, to try to let go of my pride and move toward those that hurt me. Will you join me?

 

Photo: Rembrandt’s The Prodigal