I held my friends' new baby for the first time a couple months ago.
She is perfect. An entire, tiny person; freshly pink and blinking brightly at the world she's only just found herself in.
To say both mother and father love her is the understatement of a lifetime — they are over the moon and back. They are smitten. Their joy and awe and gratitude is deep and fierce and raw.
The delivery of their daughter, though, came unexpected, via medical emergency. The birth experience they had planned, that this first-time mama yearned for, shattered in an instant and was replaced with all the things she hoped to avoid.
She loves her daughter. She is happy they are both alive and well. All those emotions listed above, to all those wild degrees? Those are true.
But she also grieved. And that's allowed.
I spent the weekend at another friend's recently, and shared something with her I was excited about. She was overjoyed, squealing in her kitchen, animated as she expressed her happiness at mine. She pressed me for details, but as I shared them, I noticed her well up a time or two. I felt a familiar pinch on my heart.
As we lay on our backs side by side, staring at the ceiling hours later, I opened my mouth and stumbled over my words: Thank you for being excited for me. You can also be sad for you.
And I feel something similar every time I pull onto I-45 after visiting family in Houston, or I-35 after friends in Austin, headed back to home in Dallas. Goodness, how I love the people I'm driving towards; but gracious, how I miss the ones I leave behind.
Bitter and sweet are supposed to be opposites, but lately it seems they just keep showing up at the same party. (That it happens to be my life is kind of rude, but whatever.)
I spent a lot of life believing I should feel either one thing or another, but the longer I go on, the more the evidence builds against that. I am less and less startled at the simultaneous presence of opposing things. That sounds pretentious as a sentence, but you know what I mean.
How do you resolve things like that?
How do you resolve being happy and sad, overjoyed and grieving, content and hopeful at the same time, over the same thing?
I've thought about it and thought about it, and I've decided that you don’t.
You hold both in your hands and you feel both in your heart and I think that's just the state we live in.
I don’t think happiness and sadness demand totality of the heart. I don’t think being content in your own situation is mutually exclusive to wanting another. I think joy can come with mourning — like the song says, but different.
I believe someday — thanks to Easter, in fact — we won't have to do that balancing act. That good and justice and joy will be 100 percent complete.
But for now, I'll take redemption, and I'll feel the good and the bad together, and marvel that the former can exist in spite of the latter. I'll let it remind me that I serve a God who feels both — who knows both firsthand — and let it draw me closer to Him.
There are lots of either/or choices we have to make in life, and at first glance, opposing emotions would seem to be one of those. But you know what? Sometimes you have to laugh and cry at the same time, and that's okay.
We can do both.