Friday, May 13, 2011

Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."

And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."

But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced. When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

This was my mantra during Mission Year as I learned how to hold true sorrow and joy for the first time in my life. Lately, this passage has returned to my heart as the spring time has brought warm weather and the desire to be outside. As I have intentionally lingered in conversation with neighbors and walked the broken streets of Camden, I have felt a deep sense of "the selfsame well" that holds both laughter and tears. The injustice, oppression, violence, classism, and racism that plagues my city, digs a deep well of sorrow within me, but somehow, I feel nearer to God in this place than anywhere else. In faces, in places, in small ways that people cling to hope I see the spirit of God transforming and redeeming what years of injustice has worn down, broken, and abandoned. Camden teaches me to hold my joy and sorrow together, not as opposites, but as companions. I read through Psalms today in the hopes to find God's love for Camden and all her troubles. I prayed for her and held her in my heart and fell on this verse, "But as for me, it is good to be near God."

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