As a kid, I was obsessed with romantic tragedy. Even though I was very young, I had such big ideas about what life and love should be like, and big, unfelt yet felt emotions about things. Mainly things that didn’t involve me directly, but they were important to me nonetheless.
Anne and Gilbert. Romeo & Juliet (the play and Baz Luhrmann's film interpretation). Buffy and Angel. Sweet Valley High. Meet Joe Black. The Giver. Poetry. Politics. Family.
This was all very internal and the last item on the list - family - is I guess where it starts to get serious. My family caused me pain as a child. It didn’t fit the mold for what I idealized families should be. My family wasn’t together. My family contained messy individuals. My family fought aggressively. I didn’t respect all of the adults in my family due to unappealing, non-role model behavior I had witnessed in the crucial early years of my development. Worst of all, I didn’t trust my family. That one really hurt.
It turns out that not trusting in family can lead to pretty much not trusting anything, or at least not until a very long trial period has passed. Those who passed through the trial period became friends and I am so lucky to have friends that are “the family you choose”- just like that wonderful saying!
As an adult, my family was torn apart once again by divorce and I endured a long period of grief, trusting God, crying with friends, acting out, and healing. When I was in the midst of it, my heart was utterly broken and I was dejected. The beautiful part of this, however, is when I’ve been at my lowest, I’ve been at my closest to God. When I felt closest to God, my heart didn’t just break for the things that applied to me, but it broke when I thought about the injustice, the war and violence, the great needs, and the loneliness of the greater world around me that I could only begin to fathom. Tragedy was SO MUCH BIGGER than I could even grasp. It hurt my heart that people have to experience anguish and despair untold.
It astonished me how easily I could access this well while in the throes of my own personal tragedy.
While I mourned the loss of my parent’s marriage, I found a closeness with God - one I’ve been chasing ever since.
Fictional tragedy can be delightful, even when it guts you. It’s just a story. Our tragic moments are so much more complex than our stories or our wild imaginations and reality can break us down. But there is beauty in tragedy. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s unavoidable. It cuts deep. It’s unpredictable. It rips us apart. Eventually though, time, relationships, and God - if you let Him - provide the healing and lessons learned to move on and rebuild.
If I had the choice to experience the personal tragedies from throughout my life, would I? Honestly, no. But do I regret the color and wisdom and compassion and experience those scars have left me with? Fortunately, no.
Tragedy experienced authentically is like a season of rain after a lengthy drought. Barren land is watered and produces long after the water has been absorbed deep into the land. It takes time to see the growth. When we do, it’s beautiful.
When experiencing tragedy, I typically don’t have an appetite. So, I’d like to invite you to take on a moment of fasting rather than eating. It could be one meal or a whole day. Pray for the tragedies you’re aware of - your own, that of your friends’, your church, or even the world. Invite a friend to join you. You don’t have to be together physically to fast and there can be strength of spirit when doing it alongside a confidant.
“Jesus Paid it All”, by Kristian Stanfill, is a song I love for its beauty and heart-wrench. It represents well the tragedy of the human spirit and its redemption through Christ.
God, please grant me the supernatural peace to endure through the known despair of my circumstances and the unknown that’s ahead. Help me to cling to you, to seek your beauty, and to emit your light even though everything around me feels dark. Help me trust in you.
In your son’s holy name, Amen
Take a moment to step outside of yourself and feel the tragedy that someone or some population might be facing. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and human. Challenge yourself to be open about your tragedies to inspire bravery in others and open yourself up to supporting others through their tragedies.