A Sincerest of Greetings

But mama don’t cry

I found songs among the tragic

Hung my hat on sadness

Mom, I think they’re trying to keep the grand romantic in me

Now that we got bottom lines

But mom, I think I’m ready to free this grand romantic in me

(Nate Ruess)

I have long been haunted by lingering desire to write. To inspire, provoke deeper thought, use my love of language to enact good w/n my limited sphere of influence. Yet if I’m completely honest, I also want to write to affirm my delicate self-worth & be seen as wise, clever, & above the vices of superficiality. To be viewed as someone of substance in such an ethereal, abstract climate that is our, western, American culture. So it’s my aim to bleed just enough through my words to maintain my fragility, remind us of our humanity, & even the playing field. I want to maintain authenticity w/out making this my own de facto counseling session. I want to say as clearly as possible that I do not consider myself “qualified” to inspire w/ words, any more or less than anyone else. This is simply my best attempt at obedience in conveying what I feel compelled through what has been working inside of me for quite sometime now. It matters little what comes of this, just that I am obedient w/ my end of the deal. With that being said, I thank you in advance for taking time out of your life to sit w/ me for a moment & possibly be stimulated to deeper reflection or dialogue w/ those you love. It is my honor to converse w/ you.

One fact that I base my life around & have had confirmed, in deeply meaningful ways, time & again in these last 3 years as a counselor is that we were made for paradise but live in a landfill. Granted there are moments where “one man’s trash becomes another’s treasure”, but it is my conviction that one mustn’t be deeply spiritual or philosophical to simply see that this world isn’t all it could be; just watch the news if you disagree. So if I endeavor to remain authentic (& I most certainly do), I must acknowledge the brokenness of our existence. It pains me to see so many, including myself at times, paint a smile over a rotting, aching, broken cistern of a countenance. So much of our pain is exacerbated by our tireless efforts to pretend it doesn’t exist. Men are especially good at this, acting as if anger were the only emotion someone “strong” enough for this broken world would need to experience. It’s as if all of us, boys & girls alike, have convinced ourselves that if we ignore negative feelings long enough, they dissipate into nothingness. You tell me, what takes more courage, essentially ignoring our humanity while acting as if our only unpleasant sentiment is anger? Or to embrace our darker feelings beneath the anger, vulnerably acknowledging our pain & ensuing fear/confusion, hoping that in time, “this too shall pass”.

So I must say that there are times where an “encouraging word” that makes for a great bumper sticker also doubles as a potent “heart sticker”, invalidating our overwhelming grievances. We must, all of us, have time & space to encounter our grief & not be alone in it. Yet w/n this landfill, if authenticity were to remain, I must concede there are also moments of profound beauty, haunting me w/ the desire to throw all my faith into the fact that something greater could exist. “Could it be that our lives actually make sense, every part – the good & the bad? Those deep yearnings that catch us by surprise when we hear a certain song on the radio, or watch our children when they aren’t aware of being watched, are telling us something that is truer about life than the Message of the Arrows. It seems too good to be true, which ought to raise even deeper suspicions that it is true. As Chesterton recounts in Orthodoxy, he ““had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician. I had always felt life first as a story; & if there is a story there is a storyteller.”” (John Eldredge & Brent Curtis, The Sacred Romance, italics mine). Despite a lingering desire to rebel against the yearning to believe this is true & murder my idealisms that beauty/love ultimately wins because so much of my experience challenges it, I can’t give it up. Not if I wish to remain genuine. So I find in myself two warring sentiments & must allow for myself to express each at the appropriate time. It is through my pain that I find the deepest experiences of warmth, passion, love, & intimacy. I can’t fully explain why this is so. It is a piercing mystery & paradox. Nor do I wish to claim a position of authority for anyone else whose experience of living on this trash heap may or may not mirror my own. I simply wish challenge you, wherever you may be, to let either end of the spectrum have it’s say while maintaining hope for what I believe we all truly most want: Proverbs 19:22 What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. Amen, it’s better to choose authenticity, even if it costs us dearly, & give hope, love, faith, & beauty it’s place amongst the rest of the ash heap. “Sometimes the bravest thing of all is to hope” (Keith Emerson).

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One thought on “A Sincerest of Greetings

  1. Jay, it’s an insightful, significant and far-reaching piece you’ve shared – thank you. It’s a conversation that continues to emerge:  vulnerability,  openness, sharing weakness, difficulty, challenges, being vulnerable, keeping it real, “walking in your truth or hustling for your worth,” as Brene Brown says.. As believers, being honest about what is seen/experienced, in the face/hope of what’s yet promised and declared truth – and acknowledging the intense tension that we encounter in attempting to wrap our minds around such – “we were made for paradise, yet here we are in this landfill.”  Personally, I’ve struggled with this for most of my life, wrestling with the fine balance of exemplifying the essence of both, without contradiction. But because the, “pasted smile syndrome” (and the mindset behind it – either hiding or believing darkness/pain is unacceptable) is so deeply etched and ingrained in many of us, it takes awareness (which writings like yours provides), courage, practice, and intentionality on our parts.
    I also appreciated this line, “It is through my pain that I find the deepest experiences of warmth, passion, love, & intimacy. I can’t fully explain why this is so. It is a piercing mystery & paradox.” Whenever I witness congruent expression of personal experience, I sense a deep, guttural, sense of connection – I believe many of us do. While we may not experience the same tragedies, heartaches – most of us have the shared experience of unspeakable pain, grief, and suffering – and it’s holy ground – both the speaking of and the entering into. 
    On this side, you can be sure and already know, we all experience hurt and pain. The courage to sit with it, share it and grapple with it is perhaps an sacred invitation to examine and experience it in the realm of our current reality, while simultaneously exposing it and allowing it to be redeemed in the light of God’s power and truth (in the context of relationship).

    Liked by 1 person

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