I’m sitting at a coffee shop in Rockport, Massachusetts. The sky is grey outside, the cold wind from the ocean biting and intense. Inside is warm with low conversation, the smell of toasted bagels and fresh donuts, and a hot eggnog latte. Sometimes the warm conversation of strangers is the best company of all.
I looked back at some of my writing the other day, caught up in the nostalgia of words with memories. 2021 was a rough year on every level. 2022 started out a shade better and quickly took a dark, dark turn. Despite that, daily gratitude, learning about releasing control, and clinging to God as lover of my soul kept joy afloat amidst many tears.
Life is never just tragedy, it is a poignant blend of comedy, drama, tragedy, and joy. And in the midst of this is a God who walks with us, who will not leave us, and who delights to surprise us with good gifts.Instagram post from 2021
For over 2500 years, comedy and tragedy masks have been a symbol of theater. These symbolic masks began in the city of Athens in 535 BC. The first theater in the world had just been built – Theater of Dionysus. In a much anticipated first performance, the curtain went up and actors stepped onto the stage wearing masks. The masks represented various characters in the play. Masks became commonplace in theaters, often made far larger than life so that they could be seen by the audience. The first theater tickets in Athens were masks carved out of small pieces of ivory bone. Well before the fall of the Roman empire, masks had become a well-known symbol for theater. The only ones that remain to this day are the masks that show happy and those that show sad. Perhaps the happy and sad masks were the only ones to live on because the ancient Greeks favorite plays were, and perhaps still are, comedy and tragedy.
I wonder if it is primarily the western world that expects life to be free of tragedy. When I speak with friends in or from other parts of the world, I don’t get the sense that their expectation is that they will experience a life free of pain, and yet in the west, people often seem surprised at hardship. What false reality or expectation have we created in the west that assumes a life of magic and order, a life of picture postcard images?
These comedy/tragedy masks remind me that life has always been and will always be a mix of both. The more I ponder, the more I realize I would not have it any other way. What is sun without clouds? What is joy without sorrow? What is comedy without tragedy? As humans we are a bit like Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion. We grow and learn through opposites.
As we end 2022 and walk into 2023, we can be assured that our lives will not go exactly as we imagine. We can rest in one thing – that whether we can see it or not, the sun will rise in 2023 bringing with it unexpected joys, unimagined tragedies, and a lot of in between mundane.
Through it all, God is there. He will not grow tired; he will not grow weary. He will give strength to our weary souls, rest to our tired bodies. As we wait on him, we will find new strength. We will run and not get tired, We will walk and not grow weary.* 2023 will not overwhelm us but will come as it always does – one day at a time.
For 2023, I wish you the joy of living fully, one day at a time.
*Paraphrased from Isaiah 40: 28-31