Saturday, March 28, 2009

Trading my Sorrows

A few years ago, I flew across the country on an emergency trip to be with a childhood friend at the lowest point she had ever experienced (which, if you knew her history, says a lot). I arrived as soon as I could, and my friend was alternatively numb and delirious with grief and despair.

Her fiancĂ©e had O-Ded and left her with nothing but a suicide note that ended by saying “Hate me if you need to,” a little bit of debt, a small stash of “charity weed,” and a baby in her womb. My friend had nothing to hold onto but his ashes for which she fought the man’s ex-wife and two other daughters, and her enduring insistence that his death had somehow not been a suicide.

Somewhere in the darkness of the weekend, she decided to go to church with her parents. Her experience of faith throughout our lives had been colorful, to put it kindly, but there is nothing like death to make a person willing to give a discarded faith another try.

We walked into the large auditorium of the Evangelical mega-church after the worship had already begun. As we found some seats toward the back, the band was bouncing and hopping to the peppy strains of:
I’m trading my sorrows
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying them down
For the joy of the Lord

I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying them down
For the joy of the Lord.
I have not been able to stomach that song since that day.

It was painfully clear that the smiles on the faces of the singers and the up-beat words they sang made no connection to my friend’s brokenness. I am not sure what the Gospel says to people in the midst of real sorrow, what kind of hope it gives to people in rubble of sin—both the sins we’ve done and those done against us—but I know it is not so simple as turning in our sorrow and receiving joy in its place (whatever that means). If Christ and the apostles did not get out of sorrow and pain, I do not understand why we would suppose we can. It is downright cruel to suggest to the sorrowful that they could.

There may be hope for people like my broken friend, for people like me as I hurt beside her, but it is through the suffering, not around it.

I don’t know about the rest of you out there in cyberspace, but I’m about ready for some Easter.


TwoSquareMeals said...

I feel the same way about that song and about "Blessed Be Your Name." The words to that song aren't AS bad, but the music does not fit the message. I almost had to walk out of a church service where they were singing that after our friend's baby had just died. I believe you can say "Blessed be your name" after walking through suffering, but I think it will always be more somber and real than that song makes it.

Come quickly, Jesus!

Miss Mapp said...

You write beautifully and there is much to think about in your words. Thank you