Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hope in a Bitter World

A while back, I was having lunch with a good friend of mine from seminary. For a good four hours or more, we discussed our lives and delved into some really deep conversations. Near the end of our conversation, he made a comment that has stuck with me for a while.

“You have an old soul Kevin that has yet to become embittered by the world”

I am unaware of what exactly would lead him to make such a remark, but it made me think about the validity of his comment for a long time.

It is true. I would classify myself as an old soul. I am not drawn so easily into the social active life that so many of my peers and the newer generations are into these days. I prefer silent meditations and simply enjoy the little things and moments in life.

Though my old soul persona may make me “boring” in the eyes of many, I see it more as that I prefer to walk a more quiet and softly lit path. I do not need to rush on my path. My path and I are friends and I am content with this relationship that I have with the path. As I wrote in my “Embrace Your Story” post, you should always be okay with the true self that you are and not an identity that someone else has chosen for you. Thus, I am happy with my old soul persona.

Now, the part about me not becoming embittered by the world leaves me a bit unsettled.

It is also true that while I am a realist, deep down in my soul, I choose to see the positive and cling to the hope that lives in our world. I have classified myself as a Realistic Optimist. I am not so moved by the answer, “Everything is going to be alright”, because in our world, everything doesn’t turn out alright.

Life is messy. As one of my Seminary Professors has stated, no one makes it through this world without some brokenness and that speaks so much truth. However, what we do with our brokenness and the brokenness of others is what concerns me.

For my own brokenness, I choose to hold on to a small light of hope. I cannot speak to the nature of what this hope looks like in the future because I do not know. I do not know if I will see my mother again. But I choose to give my life for her, instead of becoming bitter over her death.

How easy would it be to become bitter after facing a trauma in your life? I would imagine that it is an easy chose to make and many people choose to make it. Of course, bitterness is not a single shade. It can take many forms: Revenge, Isolation, Depression, Violence, and even Suicide.

With these different kinds of bitterness, why would anyone want to choose them? The answer is simple. When you become bitter, you no longer have to feel.

In the middle of a heartbreaking conversation I was having with three really close seminary friends, a very true statement was brought up: “Feelings are gross”

Emotions are so terrible to bear a lot of the time. I often wonder why God gave us emotions at all if they sometimes cause us too much heartache. But perhaps the answer lies within the question.

If we believe in a God that loves us and cares for us with all of God’s heart, then the fact that God gave us emotions must mean something. What this would mean, I’m not entirely sure, but I would like to ponder a guess.

Emotions are what make us alive. God breathed life into us. This is why we have our Ruah. We are creatures that are meant to be alive, through the bad and the good. To become embittered would allow us to forget our Ruah; to become dead spirits walking around in empty bodies.

Think about it. Have you ever seen someone who has become so embittered by the world actually live? They may be alive by scientific criteria, but by spiritual criteria, they are not living anymore.

For this reason, I have chosen to not become embittered by the world. I choose life, not death.

I invite you all to make the same decision as I have. I can’t force any of you to make that decision. Only you can make it, but I promise that it is a decision that will give you peace and wholeness instead of degradation and turmoil.

But of course, how can I say that choosing not to become bitter will make things better?

I can’t promise that life won’t be messy anymore. I can’t promise that you will be safe from the dangerous and pain and sufferings of this world. We all have brokenness and none of us are immune.

As Rob Bell once said, “We come from the dust, we are fragile”.

However, my solution is not one that mends the brokenness or shields the ones who have not yet seen trauma. My solution is that of comfort and care.

It is a common belief that we must walk alone on this path we call life. While sometimes, there are problems that we can only fix on our own, that does not mean we avoid forming a community that supports us, that gives us care and comfort whenever we need a shoulder to cry on.

In my Religious Studies Senior Seminary course, I studied and presented how community involvement in the grieving process is so important for those who suffer from grief. In my presentation, I researched the Jewish practice of Sitting Shiva, the seven day mourning practice after the burial. Within this mourning period, the family or individual is embraced and comforted by the entire community. Sometimes, they simply sit together. Sometimes, they talk together. Many times, they eat together and worship together and pray together. During these difficult times, the community is there to offer support in whatever way the person in grief needs.

I find a lot of comfort in knowing that we are not alone in this journey.

Emotions may be tough to deal with. We sometimes don’t know what to do with them and want them to go away. I find that if we surround ourselves with a community that loves us and cares about us and takes the time to listen to us, then the emotions are not as hard to bear and will become tolerable for us to continue. Loving Communities helps us to not choose to be bitter, but instead choose hope.

Thus, I would like to take a moment to thank all the different communities that have been there for me in different capacities and different moments of my life thus far: My Family; Mary Taylor; The Graffiti Monkeys; The Friedleys; The Eubanks; Wake Forest Christian Church; First Christian Church of Wilson; St. Paul’s Christian Church; Barton College; Camp Caroline; Christmount; RCYW; Brite Divinity School; Seminary Squad; And everyone else who has been a part of my life, no matter how small or short.

As my spiritual mentor once and forever sang: “Give yourself to love, if love is what your after and open up your heart to the tears of laughter…”.

Remember that you are loved and to always remember and love your Ruah