About two weeks ago my seven year old and I were talking on the phone. He asked me the question of the month, “Dad, are you going to be home for Christmas?” I said, “I’m sorry buddy, but, I have to stay here in Iraq and take care of soldiers.” There was a moment pause and then my angelic little seven year old blurted out, “Daaaamn it!” Yep, my little innocent pastor’s kid who has faithfully had his mouth washed out with soap for these little indiscretions cussed, like an old farmer.
I acted immediately, “Buddy, quickly hand the phone to your mom.” You see I knew his normally mild mannered mother was moving the moment those words left his mouth. The matriarch of my clan has zero tolerance for a foul mouth. Zero! I knew the first thing to come into her mind when the pristine quiet of her home was violated was “I brought him into the world and now I am going to take him out.” So, if I was going to save my youngest I had to act quickly, “Buddy, quick hand the phone to your mom.” By the tone of her voice I knew my instincts were correct.
I just said one thing at that moment and we both realized the truth of it. “Honey, he shouldn’t be disciplined for saying what all of us were thinking. O.K???” There was a long pause and then I heard the fire in my beloved subside. She said, “OK.”
Well, we are through the holidays and my little boy said it best. Yep, being away from your family during the holidays sucks, it just does. And it is alright to say so. Too often we think the Christian way, or even the best way is to paint a smiley face on loss and march on. We mistake Christianity with Pollyannaism. However, a theologian of the cross, calls a thing what it is. That which is difficult is a trial. That which is painful brings sorrow. There are real tragedies, real pain, real sorrow and loss to deal with in this world and a fresh coat of paint is not helpful. It is what it is. And thanks to my seven year old for naming it.
However, there is another truth of equal importance. It is the truth about God. Right in the midst of our loss stands Jesus calling to us saying, “You who are heavy laden come to me and I will give you rest.” Right in the middle of our sorrow stands Jesus with a promise of strength saying, “As your days are numbered so shall your strength be.” Every loss, every sorrow, every pain bears the fruit of hope. Romans 5:3 says, “Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Hope does not disappoint us.”
So, what is healthiest for us? What is it that God would have us do with the sorrow of our lives? The Christian way is to name the pain and name the gain. We stand in the sorrow so we might name the victory. Even in this place away from family there were great gifts. On Christmas Night I sat on my porch with five Christian brothers smoking cigars. We agreed on this, “I wouldn’t go through this again for anything, but I wouldn’t have missed for the world.”
Whatever your loss is right now, name the pain and name the gain. In the midst of your sorrow you will find peace and strength. In the midst of your pain suffering you will find hope. You are not alone. I promise.