Surprised by Sadness

Zzz. Zzz. Zzzzzz. And no, that’s not sound of me catching some Z’s — that’s the buzz of what sounds like a chainsaw to me. I’d seen the two men who work on the land regularly pull up the drive earlier. Just another project, I think. But when I go out to see what all the noise is for, my eyes fall on what he’s done — what he’s doing, rather, and I can’t help but let my jaw drop. His mimics mine, and the buzzing subsides.

“Are y’all cutting that all the way down?” I ask, hoping I’m wrong, yet knowing the answer, seeing that the chainsaw has been driven through at least three-fourths of the massive trunk of the backyard cherry tree.

“Yep,” D replies.

“Why??” I have to know.

“It’s rotten. All the way through.”

My first instinct is to protest with a “yeah, but…” even though I know it’s too late.

“Don’t want it fallin’ on the house.”

He’s right. I don’t.

What he’s doing is for the best, even if it ushers in tremendous sadness.

Isn’t this true of Someone else, too?

A few years ago, I’d pretend everything was fine, like losing this dead tree didn’t bother me. I’d tell myself to get over it, that I didn’t even have an attachment to this one, that I “shouldn’t” feel this way. Now, though, I let myself be sad. Not unreasonably so, but enough to process it:

A tree has died. (And was actually dead for a while, still standing, apparently)

The landscape of the backyard has changed.

Even though I never climbed this tree, never sat underneath its branches — it’s been a part of this house as long as I’ve known it; losing it is like losing a piece of home.

I go inside after chit-chatting, and ten minutes later, my dogs and I hear a heavy thud. What’s done is done. I don’t cry, but I do grieve because pretending this sadness isn’t here won’t make it disappear.

I decide that baking cookies is never a bad idea. Right in the middle of the work-day, I pour in sugar and crack three eggs, and I wonder at the beauty of sadness. Wouldn’t the absence of sadness in light of this loss mean I hadn’t noticed, hadn’t appreciated, hadn’t loved? Don’t misunderstand — I don’t suggest to go out looking for sadness. But when it finds us, we’ve got to acknowledge it’s there. It’s the only way to begin to ask God to help with what’s in disrepair.

In this life, we will have trouble (John 16:33). Pain will pierce, disappointment will daunt, sadness will sorrow. But Jesus has overcome it all (John 16:33 continued).

So today, don’t fear sadness. Don’t run too fast from it either. If it comes today, let its beauty surprise you — the beautiful reminder that you can feel, you are human, you do love. And remember, God is big enough to handle your sadness; it’s not here to stay (Revelation 21:4).

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