The snow globe slid from its perch on the bookshelf and crashed to the floor. The little photo holder inside, the one with the picture of him and his sister, was smashed, and the swirling glitter water drained out.
My son loved that snow globe. Its base was a shiny red color. His favorite. And now it’s broken, and he cries big tears, and his face is contorted by misery and despair.
“Can you fix it?” he asks. His father and I sigh. Probably not.
Some part of me is irritated. Toys break all the time. Cars lose their wheels and the pages of picture books are torn. Batteries run out and gadgets stop moving or talking or whatever it was they were intended to do. Is this toy really worth crying over? He won’t survive, I think to myself. He won’t survive if he suffers this much from the loss of such a little thing.
But then I wonder, what things are large enough to justify such sorrow? Which losses are the ones worth grieving? Is real grief relegated to the death of a loved one?
What about that perfect, sunny day spent inside nursing sick children? What about the flat tire that meant we didn’t have the money for those art supplies? What about the date my husband and I didn’t get to take because the babysitter fell through? Or the favorite mug dropped and broken by little hands? Or the new pillow covered in vomit? Or that relationship that looked so promising but never progressed? Or someone’s word so casually given and just as casually broken? Or one day’s peace shattered by conflict and dissension?
If I’m honest, I have to admit that I don’t quite have the courage for grief. (“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” –C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed ) If I sat down to weep over all the little losses, I might never get up again. And what of the big ones? It’s too much, and I’m inclined to harden my son to the world, to try to make less of his small griefs so that he can endure the big ones when they come. But is this wisdom?
Jesus was not unfamiliar with loss. He was “…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isa. 53:3) How well do you suppose he and grief were acquainted? If he bore on his back the sorrows of the whole world? Of every sin and every consequence of every sin? Every death? Every illness? Every hurt? Was there room in his heart for the small disappointments? Did he allow himself to grieve even the little losses?
Somehow I think he did. I think “we hid as it were our faces from him” precisely because his joy and his grief were so intense. If we sat long and stared into those eyes, we would not get up again. We would be undone.
And so Jesus, who urged us to become like children, must have understood a child’s enormous capacity for both joy and grief. He must have known that they have the strength and adaptability to enter fully into their sadness and then move out of it again and enter fully into their delight. I’ve become too rigid. Too weak. I’ve decided that small things aren’t worth grieving, and if that is true, then small things aren’t worth celebrating. Small things don’t matter much at all. My life is just an exercise in holding my breath, waiting for the very best or the very worst before I allow myself the freedom to feel.
But if I were as brave as my son, perhaps I could honor the little hurts by acknowledging them. Perhaps I could find the courage to weep when the roses droop and shed their petals, when the long-awaited event falls through, when the new toy is smashed to bits. Perhaps I could bring the little sorrows into the presence of a God for whom no sparrow’s fall is too small a thing to mark.
For how can I truly rejoice if I never learn to grieve?