Being Sad is Hard Work

I am learning that anger is a useful mask to hide behind. It is so easy to hide my insecurity and my pain behind outrage toward someone else. For me, there is a nagging voice that echoes from the childhood playground- “You don’t belong.” That voice has fueled a lifetime of working hard, attempting humor and charm, all to prove the voice wrong. And yet the voice remains. The voice comes up every time I make a mistake, every time I miscommunicate, every time I feel left out. “You don’t belong.” And that voice has rent-free space in my head, ready for the opportune moment to twist reality into self-deprecation.

In the moment of discomfort and sadness and pain, I am presented with a simple choice- to experience the pain or to deflect it elsewhere. Anger is a good deflection. Anger makes my sadness about “them,” whoever they may be. It’s “their” fault that I am expereincing this discomfort and all I need to do is overcome “them.” In today’s lectionary, it is easy to sit in the place of Agur, saying “I am weary, God, but I can prevail.” It is far more difficult to admit, like Agur does in Proverbs 30:5, that I need to take refuge in God. Refuge is not a comfortable home, refuge is the place of relative safety in a world of hurt. Refuge is a cave in a storm.

What I am learning in Lent is to face my anger differently. Rather than make my hurt about “them,” I am asking instead for refuge so I can be healed. I am learning that the voice “You don’t belong” is not God’s voice. And if it is not God’s voice, Proverbs 30:6 tells me that God will prove it a liar. But I will never hear that if I am hiding behind anger or anything else. I will only hear God prove that voice a liar when I take refuge in God’s words. That means that I have to face the sadness, allow myself to feel the discomfort, and trust that God will meet me there.

I work in leadership development for the RCA, leading an initiative called “Thriving Leaders, Thriving Churches.” I believe that no one can thrive when they hide. I believe that thriving comes when we face the dark corners of the soul, take off the masks and practice trusting our whole selves to God and others. What would happen if we in the RCA emerged from Lent with a renewed commitment to take off the masks and tell the truth about who we are and what we experience?

The short answer is that I don’t know, but I wonder if we would experience something that feels like resurrection.

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2 thoughts on “Being Sad is Hard Work

  1. This is a very good post. I’d take sadness over the perennial anger any day but it just doesn’t come. My emotions are just so shot.

    I find that when I reach out to God he corroborates the negative voices (which there are many as my experience of God is turned against me) instead of proving them a liar. That’s one of the reasons I’m moving further and further away from religion. I’ve found verses that deal existentially with the faith (like Proverbs 30:6) to be the opposite of what I experience. These things trouble me more than debates about inerrancy.

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