Our tots theme this week was “I feel sad”. It’s rare to hear someone say “I feel sad!” but it’s actually quite calming, therapeutic, helpful to simply acknowledge that you feel sad. It’s ok to be sad! There is stuff to be sad about! Some of its personal, relational, unique to our story…other things are out there in our community, in our country or world, injustices that we see or read about in the media and it connects deep inside and we….feel…sad. The thing is so often I rattle through a whole host of other emotions; anger, frustration, irritated, annoyed; I’m short tempered and I’m critical or judgemental but if I actually took a step aside or stopped to work out why I was feeling or acting the way I was I’d realise that I simply…feel…sad. (Oh and just a note here to acknowledge that there’s sadness and there’s depression. One is an emotion that comes and it goes, the other is more prolonged, it doesn’t lift, it doesn’t feel ok and it doesn’t feel like it’ll ever be ok again…if that’s the kind of “sad” you’re feeling, talk to someone, tell someone…that kind of sad needs help…)
But what do we do when we feel sad…well, that’s a good question, do we do anything with it or should we just resign ourselves to it? There are a couple of ancient stories which I think offer wisdom today. One is about a woman called Naomi…now Naomi marries and had two sons who also marry. Naomi’s husband dies and then her two sons also die leaving the three women feeling very sad. Naomi suggests to her daughters-in-law that they return to their own people, their tribe, one says yes, she will; the other says no, she’s sticking with Naomi. As they say goodbye to the first daughter-in-law, the sadness returns. Naomi and her daughter travel on to Naomi’s homeland where eventually her daughter-in-law remarries and has a child which as you can imagine brings much joy! So what’s the wisdom…the three ladies were sad, they could of chosen to remain, chosen to be lonely and sad but in their grief, when the time of initial mourning had passed, they work out their options and they act. We don’t know anything more of the first daughter-in-law but for Naomi life and joy are restored through the return to her family and the birth of a child.
The second story is of a man called Nehemiah (we’ll call him Nem for short) Nem hears that in his home city, the temple he worshipped at had been destroyed. He’s sad, he feels for his people, his tribe, and he mourns the loss of an influential, essential part of his story. Now Nem works away, for a king and the king notices that Nem is sad. Eventually Nem plucks up courage and he asks the king for permission to return and rebuild the city. He returns home, with a kings blessing, as governor for the province he’s from and the equipment he needs to rebuild the temple! Nehemiah could of moped around the palace, sorry for himself and feeling helpless but he chose to work out his options and act…he’s sent home the temple gets rebuilt and his people are restored!
So despite their sadness, despite their circumstances these people discover a new way. It doesn’t detract from their feelings and it wasn’t as though the sadness wasn’t real but they used the sadness as an impetus for change. In their sorrow they still had a choice and they chose well. So for us, those sad times are real, those feelings deserve to be acknowledged but those feelings don’t own us or control us. We can’t always change the circumstances but we can choose how we respond. There are choices to be made, at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way…there is a way forward that gives a nod to the sadness but also says there’s hope to be found and I’m going to look for it!