There are some emotions which do not seem at first glance to sit easily together, and yet the nature of our complex selves is that often those which seem contradictory are simply two sides of the same emotional coin. Recently I read something very helpful which put grief and gratitude together [i] and it made me think about how easily – or not – I allow them to co-exist in my own emotional landscape.
A couple of weeks ago I was worshipping in a church which I am helping and I found a deep sadness beginning to make itself felt, an emotion which at the time I could not do anything to process. At first I was mystified, but then as I reflected I realised that this month marks a year since I ‘went freelance’ – my term for retirement. The church I am helping are a delight, but my role there is temporary and still I miss ‘home’ – the last church in which I served, where the people I worked with and served remain deeply rooted in my heart.
I have written elsewhere in this blog about the way I struggle with gratitude. Grief, ah that is familiar territory, where I recognise the paths and landmarks. But gratitude, for reasons I can only partially understand, that I find more difficult. Not in relation to people – there are so many people who have been or are in my life for whom I am grateful beyond words. But the more general attitude of thankfulness is not natural to me.
So putting these two apparently contradictory things together may help me. As I grieve for the ending of some immensely happy years – the sorrow delayed perhaps by both busyness and the unusual circumstances of leaving, waving goodbye from the platform as people left socially distanced – perhaps I can see that within the sorrow there is also inevitable gratitude too. I need not separate them, thinking I can do one and not the other, but simply accept that they intermingle, God seeing and loving me, like all of us, as the wonderfully complex, fragile, vulnerable but passionately loved part of his creation that we are.