In our Hearts Grief and Grace often Ride Side by Side

By Eugene C. Scott

“Red Rocks is one of the finest places on the planet to perform,” James Taylor said near the end of his show last night.*

He’s right.

Towering above us ancient and unmovable were Ship Rock on the left and Creation Rock on the right. Taylor’s smooth, ageless voice filling the space between. Rock and wind and sky surrounded us while song and poetry and story filled us. The lights of Denver danced in the night sky above the back wall of the amphitheater. It was remarkable.

“There is a young cowboy, he lives on the range,” Taylor sang his famous lullaby. I closed my eyes and imagined that cowboy and sang along to myself, “deep greens and blues are the colors I choose, won’t you let me go down in my dreams?” I breathed deep.

But Taylor was painting a different picture of life than the one many Coloradans had lived out in the last four days. I opened my eyes and saw Alameda Boulevard stretched out west to east in a straight line of lights from the foothills to Aurora. There on the far horizon I imagined one of the lights was the theater. There still lurking was the pain and heart ache of twelve innocent people dying and many more being wounded physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Guilt buffeted against my peace. Should I be enjoying myself? How can this beauty, my sense of well-being, co-exist with that?

Still they seemed to. Drawing my eyes and heart back to the stage–to the here and now, to what I can be and do–Taylor sang, “Shower the people you love with love.”

And I could see, on the screen, in his now creased 64 year-old face, his alive but tired eyes, that he too has known pain. Yet he still believed what he was singing.

Maybe JT, right there on stage, without knowing it, was living out a truth: that in our hearts grief and grace often ride side by side.

As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his famous poem “Christmas Bells:”

“And in despair I bowed my head

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;

‘For hate is strong

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth good-will to men!’

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Maybe that’s the thing. Song, poetry–art in general–remind us of this dichotomy of life. In the midst of horrific pain and evil, beauty is undiminished. Grace prevails. Maybe it’s even made more beautiful. James Taylor put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. In a stunning setting. The clarity and sweetness of his voice matched the clarity and power of the message I heard God whisper in my heart. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

*July 23, 2012. This may be a slight paraphrase since I did not write his quote down word for word.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “In our Hearts Grief and Grace often Ride Side by Side

  1. Georgie-ann

    I think you’re giving a great example of why and how we “have need of” a realm of thought and perspective that absolutely transcends our personal and limited emotional and mental ability to explain and solve all the problems that may confront us in life,… especially with a satisfying conclusion (at least, more or less),…

    At some point, it would be easy to just sit down and say, “I give up!,… This is too much for me,… I’ve been doing the best I can, but I can’t fix/understand/explain/accept this state of affairs,…”

    It is certainly easy enough to come to this point, because the totality of all that “goes on” is most definitely not within our grasp, or under our control,… “Well, I wouldn’t have done it that way, etc etc,…”, but others do,… so, now what?,…

    I am not God, and neither is anyone else,… and here we are,… If we wait long enough, the sun will go down, darkness will surround us, and then the sun will come up, and perhaps smile on us with some bit of evanescent transient delicate beauty,… maybe almost a kiss of reassurance,… maybe quite a bit more subtle or subdued than that,… but it is always good/welcome to see the light of day, after being too long in the dark,… and then we may find/experience a slight positive twinge of emotion birthed inside,… is it hope?,… It’s a bona fide miracle, coming from the realm of miracles, from the giver of lights,… God Himself,…

    Genesis 1:14 “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be signs and tokens [of God’s provident care], and [to mark] seasons, days, and years,'”

    Lamentations 3:22-24
    22 “It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.

    23 “They are NEW EVERY MORNING; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.

    24 “The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.”

    Psalm 136 (excerpted)
    1 “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever. …

    4 “To Him Who alone does great wonders, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever;

    5 “To Him Who by wisdom and understanding made the heavens, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever; …

    7 “To Him Who made the great lights, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever—

    8 “The sun to rule over the day, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever;

    9 “The moon and stars to rule by night, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever; …

    16 “To Him Who led His people through the wilderness, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever; …

    23 “To Him Who [earnestly] remembered us in our low estate and imprinted us [on His heart], for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever;

    24 “And rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever;

    25 “To Him Who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever;

    26 “O give thanks to the God of heaven, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever!”

    Truly we need these messages of hope and reassurance,… reminders of greater things than we ourselves can do or see,… although dependent, we have a Great God to be depending on,… His gifts of Light and Life are wondrous creative miracles that just keep on giving,… and “His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever!”

    This is the realm of “inspiration” / “illumination”,… it transcends reason and logic, oughts and shoulds, laws and brokenness, disappointments and despair,…

    John 6:63 “It is the Spirit Who gives life [He is the Life-giver]; the flesh conveys no benefit whatever [there is no profit in it]. The words (truths) that I have been speaking to you are spirit and life.”

    … and I say, “Amen, and Praise the Lord!”

    • Georgie-ann: Good insight about us needing realms of thought or places that allow–or even–call us to think of the transcendent. We so want control. And God did not design life to be controlled but rather lived and redeemed. Thanks for reading.

      • Georgie-ann

        yes,… even if we WANT to control, we have to honestly ask ourselves: what are we really ABLE to control? There are days when even a relatively familiar cooking project can veer a little “out of control” and remind us that we do not always know the beginning from the end, in spite of our own well-laid plans and intentions,… and even in the case of things that we pretty much assume that we usually DO have control over,…

        I like to think that “I will do my best” (which won’t be perfect) with things that are under my personal jurisdiction,… and I do enjoy working alone on certain types of projects,… Once I ask for help, or offer help in other areas, this will expand the “playing field” and the variables involved: new partnerships will add more “wills” and “visions” and “methods” to be co-ordinated into the final results,… Will we succeed?,… Will we all be happy with the results?,… Who knows?,…

        If I had a BibleGateway-style access to a collection of Amish (or even Irish!) sayings and proverbial wisdom, I’m sure I would find plenty that would reflect the instability and unpredictable nature of our lives as we live and experience them,… and our need for God and prayer always to continue to “bring us through”,…

  2. Georgie-ann

    Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

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