Inside Out

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“Consider it all joy, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
-James 1:2-5

Last night I watched the new Pixar movie, “Inside Out“, and it hit closer to home, deeper inside this soul, than I intended in my search for mere animated entertainment. Long story short, the film follows the emotional process of 11 year old Riley, and her “sadness” and “joy” get lost on the journey and have to find their way back.

Sadness and joy go hand in hand (actually, joy drags sadness most of the time), and the two really do need each other, this balance, this compliment, in order to give Riley the ability to process and digest life in a healthy way.

Sadness comes in at the end of the movie, touching Riley’s memories, bringing a heavy glory to them. This young girl who was considering running away from home says,

“I want to go home. Please don’t be mad.”

Of course, Riley’s parents aren’t mad. But they were able to understand and know how to love her better because of her vulnerability and pain. Without sadness, the joy wouldn’t know it’s worth.

It may sound silly, go ahead and laugh, but a tear may have creeped out while I was watching. I couldn’t believe how much I could relate to this family friendly, PG rated film. I can’t tell you how many times this year my heart has silently screamed,

“I want to go home.
Please don’t be mad.”

Aching, longing for peace, safety, comfort, understanding. My entire life, I’ve felt this need to be appropriate, diplomatic, peaceful, and even keeled. But this past year broke me open. I have felt a deeper sadness than I ever thought I would experience. Crying alone almost every night, even for just a brief moment, enduring a pain I still don’t fully understand. I recently told a friend I wonder when it will stop hurting…will it ever stop hurting? Or will the memories always remain so potent? CS Lewis spoke in a hauntingly eloquent way about this in A Grief Observed:

“For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?
How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”

If you feel that this is a hopeless, depressing blog article, I promise there’s more. And it’s beautiful. Because it is life. And I challenge you to embrace the sadness, because that’s part of it, too. Without it, we cannot fully experience the glimpses of heaven-on-earth that true joy brings. The incredible thing is that the excruciating parts of this year have also made the beauty much more tangible and true. Through my authenticity and sadness, I’ve grown closer to my family. Friends have known how to reach out to the real me. I’m learning how to BE the real me and love myself. It isn’t easy…and I still don’t feel comfortable embracing my sorrow, but I can honestly say I am grateful for the pain.

You are allowed to feel deep sadness.
You are allowed to feel incredible joy.
You can be on extreme sides of the spectrum.
You can handle it. It is all beautiful and necessary.

Life isn’t black and white. It is so ridiculously colorful. Embrace every shade.

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