Five days before the wedding, the mother of the groom dies from wounds sustained in a car accident. Reeling in shock, the family adds another event to their already full week: a funeral. On Friday, they bury their mother; on Saturday, they add a daughter-in-law.
I heard this tragic story of friends-of-friends years ago, and it’s never left me. Partly because of how unbelievably sad it is, and partly because of the strangeness of holding both. Of how joy and sorrow were knit together for that family, on the very same weekend.
I have never walked heartache such as theirs, nor have I known the joy of my own marriage celebration, but I am becoming more and more familiar with the clunky nature of holding both, of having contrasting emotions at the very same time.
We whose stories are marked by a cross-cultural life are invited into some unique ways of knowing this. We know how the joy of a homecoming is always mixed with the grief of the home we left behind. We know the sweetness of nearby “family” often reminds us of the bitter of missing our far-away-family. We know the anxiety of faith-based salary and how it holds the mountaintop experiences of watching God provide.
We often are asked to hold both.
And part of holding them well is naming them.
Sometimes it’s hard to name grief, or to name joy, or to name sluggishness. But what if you’re feeling them all? At the same time?
That’s the next level of hard.
But in order to move beyond, they must be named.
In Bible college, my Theology prof loved to talk about the significance of naming in scripture. He noted that in God’s word, naming usually signifies ownership, dominion. There are many stories of parents naming their children, there’s the image of Adam naming the animals, the times when Jesus renames His followers.
Perhaps naming our emotions is the same concept: our standing tall and declaring that we will not be owned by our feelings, that they may be part of our story right now, but they will not define who we are.
But having to name multiple, sometimes conflicting emotions that we are feeling at the exact same moment, that’s strange.
But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s actually quite appropriate for the already-not yet kingdom we live in. Our lives with God require us to hold both the beauty and the pain of our world. Our hope for the consummation of God’s kingdom requires us to live with our eyes peeled for what’s next while being fully planted where we are.
Jesus is inviting us into the naming process. Into saying out loud what our hearts know. Into taking ownership of our inner life and declaring that He has created us with hearts that know emotion, but that those emotions do not define us. His fingerprint on our lives does.
Sisters, let’s name. And if He calls us into the process of naming more than one, let’s follow.
Maybe it’s an invitation into Kingdom living.
In what ways do you feel multiple emotions, like you have to name both?