There are days that seem to be so full of life that your heart feels like it will burst at the seams and scatter out all the joys and sorrows.
I had a day like that last week.
First, driving back with my husband to see my family...soaking in the comfortable familiarity of home. Listening to my youngest two brothers ramble (wanna see my tadpoles I'm gonna winterize? come and listen to my new guitar notes!). Slipping upstairs to climb into the window seat in my old room, and remembering all the prayers and thinking and dreaming that have happened in that spot. Thankfulness over things that God has done in my life. Sitting on the bed in my parents room with a cup of coffee as my mom folded laundry, easy chatter and laughs, and some things serious. Helping to prepare lunch. Talking about the Christian life with my dad and husband in the living room. Laughing with my sister. An afternoon visit with more family stopping by. Sharing happiness at some joyous news...(no, we're not expecting yet.)
Feeling the beauty of family and a life that seems blessed far beyond what I deserve.
But there was sadness too, because even with the joys, there are difficulties and frustrations in the lives of people I love, with no immediate answers. There was thinking about tragic news that happened to someone else I don't even know and empathizing, painfully. And then again as I saw a video update on intense persecution happening to believers a world away.
After dinner, we drove back to our city for an evening downtown, but not to join in the usual (for many) Friday-night happenings. Instead, we bundled up against the sharp November cold to join some fellow believers in outdoor evangelism on a busy street. And I felt tired, and a little unsure, because I used to go every week but have have missed two months for various reasons.
But as I stood there, just holding some tracts, I was suddenly marveling at my Savior's grace - knowing Him to be near, and full of longing to show His love to another. Joy at knowing and feeling this love, but sadness too.
Because it wasn't like people-watching in a grocery store line or at the mall food court or the library. It was a sharp awareness of homeless teens and girls dressed for clubbing (so young) and empty, longing eyes that met mine as they wandered by.
I talked to a group, two boys and a girl no older than thirteen or fourteen. They wanted to know why I was there, and the one boy took over as leader and sent me spinning in a ten minute conversation because he was so so hardened, far beyond his years. Full of accusations and arguments and anger and excuses, because God does not exist and he is sure of it, and I'm brainwashed and don't understand reality.
My heart hurt, and I wanted to sit down with them at a McDonald's and answer their questions and point them to truth, truth that is reasonable and can stand up under scrutiny. I wanted to ask questions and understand the paths that have brought them to this place. And most of all, to help them see their need, to see the depths and beauty of the forgiveness and love that is in God, their Creator. But they didn't want to hear. They scoffed at my cautious words and the one boy finally jostled them away, maybe because a thread of conviction ran deep.
Their young faces were imprinted in my mind, pushing me to pray as I went home to the warmth of our apartment and sat on the couch and processed the whole day against my husband's shoulder...
Glimpses of God's goodness all around - in the feeling of home, and in the friendships and close-knowing of family. In laughter and beauty and in the love of my husband. In the hope of what is to come, of possibilities. All gifts that come from Him. And yet, they are still marred by imperfection, and we feel the brevity of this life, a longing for more time.
And I remember - all the good things are just a preview to a much longer story, a bar of music to a song we want to hear in full. We feel this, because there is more.
We know, in this in-between place, (of what was intended, and what will yet be) that pain and sorrow and unfulfilled longing and all ugly things don't belong. We were not made for these.
But for now, they are the reality (because of sin, but that's a longer story). So I've been thinking about how to respond - not to ignore or fear or run away from all the ugly, but to shine God's love and light in every dark place or circumstance - to people who need to hear the gospel, who need truth, who need encouragement, who need love - friends and acquaintances and family and even strangers.
And it is a difficult balance - to see the hurt around us, and to respond where we can, but not be overwhelmed by it. I think the answer in that difficulty (I am learning this, slowly) is leaning in to the One who is strong and mighty and wise and loving.
He asks us to enter in to the suffering of others, but underneath He is the one really carrying the burden.