Thursday, December 09, 2010

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

Before I traveled down to Arizona for a family reunion I watched a film from my Netflix account about Princess Kaiulani. The movie focused on the turbulent time in the history of Hawaii when American business interests overthrew the monarchy during the late 1800’s. It was a well-done film that was apparently an especially accurate snapshot of what occurred in Hawaii at that time.

One quote that stood out to me from the film was one that was taken from Queen Emma. The princess took the queen’s words to heart in a way that empowered her to make some courageous decisions in her short lifetime. What Queen Emma said was this: “We need to make room for the living.” The queen modeled for the princess how to live with joy amidst inevitable sorrow and disappointment. The princess was instrumental in guaranteeing Hawaiians the right to vote, a right not yet given to women or African-Americans in the U.S, even as she was losing her power as a future monarch.

This quote rang in my mind as I gathered with about 30 from my family-father, wife, sisters, nephews, nieces, their spouses and children. In situations like this it is easy for me to go to one of two extremes. I can easily allow the sadness of those who are not at the reunion¬-my mother and brother-in-law through death, my youngest sister through estrangement, three of my four children through economic practicality-to ruin my time.

On the other hand, I can live in complete denial and not even recognize any of my legitimate sadness and live as if they were not now or never were a part of this family. That wouldn’t be a wise choice either.

I believe what I am called to do, and last weekend thankfully actually succeed in doing, was to live in the “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10) tension that Paul writes about. I think it was healthy for me to be conscious of the sorrow of the situation and yet live presently and joyfully with those who were able to be at the reunion.

As I stayed present I had some special conversations and noticed others doing the same. Around the tables silly stories were retold for the umpteenth time by us older ones. Little ones were seen laughing about who knows what and their young parents were commiserating about the rollercoaster of parenthood.

I brought my “best self” to the gathering and tuned into those who were there.

This also has application for me in the broader context of my life. I can spend an inordinate amount of time missing the absent, to the point I become blind to the people of my present. I do need to “make room for the living.”

I need to learn to live in this tension of “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” learning this art in a present world that will never be ideal and YET is still full of the glorious presence of God.

Rejoicing in His Glorious Presence,


Note: Do you have any stories of God’s Glory showing up in the ordinary? I would love to hear them and share them with a larger audience if you would like! Just email me at (

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