“Life is what you make it.” Seems like a simple enough formula – loosely defined enough so as to allow an abstract interpretation. Its assumption is that life is but an empty container, awaiting whatever it is you want to pour into it – so that its contents are up to you to decide. But the trouble is, that’s not actually how life happens. Because even though intentionality plays an important role in how we approach our lives – we are still incapable of escaping the contingent disposition of our existence. So in many ways, like it or not, it is the erratic nature of every event and relationship in our lives that invariably shape and reshape us . . . regardless of our intentions.
Even when we experience life unfolding in the carefully predictable ways we’ve proportioned it — there still remains the hovering uncertainty of circumstances beyond our control, lingering in the shadows of alternative outcomes. Inevitably these circumstances overtake us, challenging the flexibility of what we consider normative until we’ve become stretched — pulled out of our complacency. And in that moment of being stretched we catch a glimpse of a fully dimensional life, where the lows plummet subterranean, and the highs scrap the atmospheric canopy . . . because this is the space between sorrow and joy.
All too often we live our lives in a state of emotional compression. We think that by limiting our exposure to the sorrow, we’ll somehow experience more joy. But little do we realize, the more energy we put into building an emotional floor beneath our feet, an emotional ceiling is simultaneously being installed above our heads. This is how our relationship with sorrow and joy works – either we end up emotionally guarding our experience of each, or we release ourselves fully to the experience both . . . that we might know the emotional depth of each.
A fully dimensional life requires a far wider emotional bandwidth than most of us are willing to maintain. Having experienced enough hardship in our lives our default setting is to brace for impact, dreading the imminent expiration of ephemeral happiness. Therefore the simple joys of life go unrecognized, no longer capable of moving our emotional needle – leading us to seek out vacuous amusements and distractions . . . just so we might feel something. But for those who’ve had a near-death experience, peering into the abyss of their own mortality – they become recalibrated, if only briefly, to the preciousness of every moment given to them as a gift.
It is the confession of my faith that I will fear nothing but God. But it is not done as a risk assessment intent on limiting my exposure to all the things that I might fear – rather it is the confession that I am held in God’s hand amidst lament, as well as laughter. So I will live present in every moment, walking through darkness into light. And it will be a sojourn together – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15). For this is the way of Christ – to live fearlessly between the sorrow and the joy.
“Well, it’s one for sorrow, two for joy — so they say”