There Is A Puma Who Lives In The Forest
Pastor Kynan Brookes • August 16, 2017
I have generally been a fairly optimistic fellow. Strong faith, great upbringing, fantastic people around me, a sense of purpose about why I am here, satisfying interests and hobbies, you know how it goes, pretty darn good in the scheme of things.
I was fairly taken a back when through a series of circumstances I was pounced upon by a stealth emotion that took me by surprise. It had to do with some loss (real and perceived), it was connected to facing my mortality and it was related to some work stress.
I’ve attempted to put this emotion into words:
Sadness: It crept up on me like a puma stalking in the forest. Scratching across the inner part of my forehead before wiping its furry paw on the back of my eyes. It thudded into my chest grabbing at the tightening strings around my heart. There was only one way out as the eyes welled up, and the thudding in my chest jumped in and out with an uncontrollable pulse. It lasted sometimes for 15 seconds, sometimes up to a minute before it slunk back into the forest from whence it came.
I was talking with a dear friend and colleague recently. She is riding the stormy wave of a brutal battle with cancer. She said I’m not angry at God, I find myself frustrated at times and my hope is in Christ but at times I just feel sad. This friend of mine has the strongest mind of anyone I know and the most beautiful spirit and yet sadness has become a profound experience for her.
We don’t like to feel sad. It is the opposite of happiness. We can think that feeling sad is un-manlike, embarrassing, out of our control. It is easy to think that feeling sadness means we will be seen as vulnerable and we can be in danger of being taken advantage of if we show vulnerability. As a minister called to be with people in the crossroad moments of life I see all the different responses that people have to life’s circumstances. Sadness is one that often gets explained away quickly and suppressed. People would prefer to admit they are angry, maybe regretful or even simply just resigned to what is going on around them and become numb. They may choose surface level living or retreat from the swirl around them rather than come to grips with their sadness.
I guess it just makes me wonder why God created tears.
Jesus showed us his vulnerability. His sadness overcame him when he lost his friend Lazarus. He looked at His beloved city of Jerusalem lost in their trouble and estrangement from God and one another and he weeps over her and the knowledge they don’t know the things that make for peace.
Jesus sadness is somehow linked to the depth by which he loves. His love for his friend, his love for his city, He is not ashamed of his burden. Quite the contrary, his sadness is the mechanism by which he is able to keep loving and walking his life of faith and love.
- So I have come to roll with the sadness. If the tears need to roll….I let them roll. I see it as Gods recovering work. Better to let it out in this way than accumulate the emotion into a volatile mix that could be destructive.
- Sadness doesn’t define me nor does it dominate me. It is a part of living in the fullness of life that we are invited into. How can we know true happiness if we haven’t felt the tug of sadness?
- Though I can now recognise a moment of sadness building and I acknowledge that it is there I have come to trust that God wants to move me through it. Jesus did not stay in a perpetual state of sadness but neither did he suppress the emotion.
- I have come to experience the graciousness of God when I have been quite vulnerable in the presence of close and trusted friends and colleagues. They don’t walk away, or try to say too much, they don’t try to rush me on or explain it away. Sometimes they simply say “I know” and “it’s ok”. I leave feeling more secure and less vulnerable when this is done right.
(On a side note we can be overcome with sadness at our sinful state, so expressing this to God allows him to extend his forgiveness to us. Praise God for Our Lord Jesus Christ!)
- Sadness will come again. I don’t seek to predict it. However I know that at times I cannot give into it at a given moment. God will give me another space to work that through. I recall an occasion when I had to pastor through a time when our community was experiencing the loss of a beloved member. I had to be strong for the community but God did not forget me. He gave me a sacred private moment to process the sadness and I was able to perform my public ministerial responsibility.
- My kids have seen me cry, I’ve seen my Dad cry. It’s not often and it’s not the natural state of my household. But we have talked about it and explained it to them that some things touch us so deeply that our God helps us express this.
So why write this down?
Well I don’t want to raise emotional memories for people for the sake of it and I don’t want people to think that I live in a depressed state. However I do believe that the joy of the Lord is our strength and I know God wants us to be strong. I believe that working through the sad moments in life, embracing and acknowledging them will lead us into knowing the joy of the Lord who is revealing himself in wonderful moments all around us.