Sorrow Has A Shelf Life ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sorrow Has A Shelf Life

Gouged spirits, like cut flesh, scab over. Sorrow has a shelf life. I say it as an admonition and a consolation: I won’t have the urgency of blood for long; eventually even the ugliest wounds grow firm. Sorrow has a shelf life.

I know it does.

There is a purpose and an end in grief, and we had best exploit it while the potency remains. One thing’s for sure: Sorrow sharpens. Like an open wound harshly accentuates our spatial awareness—what we bump into, what we touch—so grief gives us a keenly vulnerable alertness. Emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, our senses are heightened.

Sometimes when the sharpening seems unbearable, we ought to remember the sword is two-edged. It brings piercing joy as well as pain. Sorrow pushes perception to a razor-edge, so we see truth in all its lovely, aching brilliance. The truth of loss. And the truth that undergirds the loss. We must remember which is greater.

A crucial caveat in this “product,” sorrow, must be that we do not allow it to permanently disable us. “To cripple” is not one of its intended effects. To hurt, perhaps to humble, surely, to mortify and sober us, yes—to sideline us, conclusively “wounded”—No. Woundedness is a temporary state, a transient gift, but it is not a lifestyle.

As David wrote, that warrior-king, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30, The Bible). As anyone who’s read his story knows, David progressed from songs to sorrow, from sun-drenched elation through midnight horror and back again. Sorrow has a shelf life. Some things we can only see through tears. But tears end.

We must not become a psychological Fisher King, adopting an invalid’s life of perpetual blood-loss, waiting for a “miraculous” healing. Miracles do happen, but they tend to appear in the midst of pain, like light through clouds. Miracles leave us with bittersweet responsibilities. There is a sorrow that leads to benefit, to reward, to life, even. But a sadness that is artificially prolonged, a latent melancholia, has no medicinal value.

Grief is a temporary opening of the clouds, when tears wash the windows of the world and truth appears in stark and bracing clarity. We need this, all of us—to embrace the reality of pain, to comprehend the kind of world we live in, and to discern that healing comes from the outside. I think of woe as washing our eyes so we can see Christ.

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Anonymous said...

A crucial caveat in this “product,” sorrow, must be that we do not allow it to permanently disable us. “To cripple” is not one of its intended effects.

So true! This is a great post.

Blackempress said...

love the mentioned lines above.
nice post

Grace said...

nice post


even beautiful would be too bland a word for what AJ wrote.

tequilita said...

this is a really good post. it's been so heavy on my mind lately...somehow reconciling joy and pain, and understanding how we somehow need both, that suffering happens. and what is its place in the plan?


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife