The Oasis - May 27, 2020
Author: Pastor Dan Hollis
May 27, 2020
May 27, 2020
by Pastor Dan
“What kinda mon eat after him mudder-in-law buried?” A phrase that has sat in the deepest corners of my mind since childhood. A phrase narrated by Denzel Washington in a Jamaican accent on a cassette tape my little brother and I would listen to again and again: the stories of Anansi the Spider. For those of you who can’t read through my poor attempt at accent transliteration, Anansi’s refrain to the other animals of the jungle was: “What kind of man eats after his mother-in-law is buried?”
The assertion at the center of that story was that joy has no place in tragedy. You are somehow less—Anansi believed—if, in the face of loss and pain, you allow yourself happiness.
I’m here to tell you that Anansi was wrong. (Denzel explained that too in the end, but I don’t have the copyrights to that book, so you’ll just have to buy it yourself.) Terrible things happen all the time, both to us and to people on the other side of the world. It’s an unfortunate truth of this world. Right now we are beset on all sides by tragedy, whether it is ourselves who are suffering, someone we love, or the people of the world we see through our TV screens, newspapers, and internet connections. It can feel not just impossible, but wrong to be happy in the face of all that. We may feel sometimes that we have no right to be happy, to find joy, to laugh or be grateful under the weight of the world. How can we be thankful for something when everything else and everyone else is falling apart? Why should we smile when our next-door-neighbor is crying? What kind of person falls in love while someone else’s spouse is on a ventilator? Who would I be to celebrate a new job when my friends are being denied by the unemployment office? What kinda man eats after him mother-in-law buried?
We cannot cast a blind eye to the suffering in our world. It is our responsibility to do what we can to ease that suffering and to strive for justice and righteousness for all. And we must be kind, empathetic, and respectful of the many different lives being lived right now.
But it is not our responsibility to deny ourselves joy. We are not “better” people for denying happiness and beauty just because it is so hard to find right now. These days it is all the more necessary to recognize and make the most of the joy and love that God has put in this world for us.
Do not feel guilty for being happy. It is those moments that will carry you through the dark valleys, and it is for the love of those moments that we will all work together to ensure that every one of God’s children can experience that same joy in their lives too.
If you are suffering, allow yourself moments to be happy. If the ones you care about are suffering, don’t deny yourself opportunities for laughter. If the world is suffering, do not turn away from the beauty this world holds. It is for you, for all of us. It is what we live for, and what will keep us living now and always.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8