May 27, 2020
The Courage to See

by Rev. Beverly Markham, Associate Pastor

Sing praises to the Lord, O you faithful ones, and give thanks to God’s holy name.
For God’s anger is but for a moment; God’s favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:4-5
Recently I purchased a new devotional book that pairs two of my favorites: scripture and great literature. It’s titled "The Courage to See", and each devotion includes a scripture passage alongside a quote from a poem, short story, play, novel, or a work of non-fiction. Each devotion ends with a short prayer. This way of reading scripture – a verse at a time with a thought from literature - is new and fruitful for me. The reason I tell you about my new book is because in it, I found a quote and a scripture that speak to what I have been feeling lately. The scripture is above and the quote (below) is from "Swann’s Way" by Marcel Proust.

“We have such numerous interests in our lives that it is not uncommon, on a single occasion, for the foundations of a happiness that does not yet exist to be laid down alongside the intensification of a grief from which we are still suffering.”

It seems clear to me that we will not simply “go back” to things as they were. At some point, something more like normal life will emerge again, but the changes we are experiencing now will have altered who we are and how we do things. Life before this virus has ended. Realizing that creates a lot of grief. It is so rare for life to be changed in an instant like it has for you and for me. I hope you are giving yourself space to hold the grief that has come with this enormous change.

But lately, alongside my grief, I have been feeling the urge to imagine. The quote I found in my new book helped me articulate what I’m feeling… what if the foundations of a happiness that does not exist yet are being laid down alongside the intensification of the grief we are still suffering? What if we can feel all of this grief over what we’ve lost (even as our grief is still growing) and at the same time imagine a happy future that has not taken shape yet?
I believe we have the capacity to hold both of these (grief and the foundations of future happiness) within us. The Psalmist promises us that even as we weep in the nighttime, there will be joy in the morning. God’s faithful presence – God’s favor - is with us throughout our lives and this pure gift is the root of the joy that comes each morning. This promise is woven throughout scripture…Lamentations promises us that even when our soul is far off from peace and we have forgotten prosperity, we have hope because the Lord’s compassions are new every morning.

I am holding you all in prayer as you make space for grief and joyful expectation as we move from where we were earlier this year to a future happiness that is still taking shape.
Lord of all, we thank you that you know all of our griefs,
and we look with expectation for the return of joy. Amen.
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009