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The Sadness

The following likely reads a bit raggedy or raw. It comes from a journal entry scratched out in a notebook beside the lake after a difficult day of listening.


A conversation at a bookstore: “Oh, this one looks interesting… She’s that famous author of ______.”  “Yeah, but the story looks like such a sad one…. Why are all the good stories full of so much sadness?”

I don’t know… Art imitates life? We write what we know.

 The sadness comes rushing in, all at once… A torrent of grief and pain and rage and confusion, poured out like a messy, bloody offering… Or something like that.

The stories and the sadness are predictable. Ordinary. Yet utterly, terrifyingly unique.

A love is withering.

It staggers and groans, it lashes out…. There is hurt and blame and mistrust and truth and lies… The sorrow and the sting, they all mix and mingle together. The cup runneth over. Or something like that.

Words as weapons, hasty judgments, sides taken, lines in the sand.

Overbearing religion rushes in to the fill the void. Religion as a weapon. “God says.” “You must.” “How dare you.” Religion as a rampaging, crusading warrior for truth, rather than a salve for gaping wounds still wide open.

And love and hope stagger some more…. Precious human lives begin to unwind, disentangle… We grope around for words, for a way out, for light.


A light is fading.

The sadness is different… It is meek and shy, submissive and reticent…. But the pain trickles out… Crushing loneliness, crippling anxiety, debilitating fear and uncertainty…

The words are different, too… “I’m scared.” “I’m confused.” “I don’t know how this will end.” “I feel like I don’t have a home, like I don’t belong.” “I wish I could touch God, that he would wrap his arms around me… And none of that spiritual, mushy stuff. I want real arms that I can touch and feel. Arms that will tell me I’m gonna be all right…”

Hands shift and tremble, fingering a crumpled piece of paper… Tears form… And then…


The shifting and shuffling of bodies in a room where all the words have been used up.

We pray.


Went for a walk by the lake… needed to clear my head… needed to get away from the sadness.

The park is full—nothing but light and life and laughter here… Happy kids and earnest parents… play dates…picnics… cheerful faces… green grass, sparkling water…

How can the sadness exist alongside all of this beauty, all of these smiles? How is there room for both under this big blue sky?

All these little lives, all these stories, barely begun, first pages hardly filled…Where will they go? How will they end? What words stand at the ready, straining and snarling at the leash, chomping at the bit, hungrily waiting to be written?

Will these happy faces full of ice cream and sunshine turn into unwinding faces, unraveling faces, looking lonely at the ceiling faces? Will these faces one day be looking for a home they cannot find? Will they be scrambling to contain the shards of frustrated longing and love and hope as they sail by, too quickly to catch? Will these faces be on the wrong end of the wrong words at the wrong time? Will the sadness find these faces, too?

No, surely not… Surely there are happier stories ahead for these little lives… Surely the future is bright… Surely the sadness will pass them by…

A little boy trudges by… Three or four, maybe? He can’t keep up with the others… My eyes follow him as he passes by… He stops, turns and looks at me… Then, a big grin takes over his face… He waves at me… I smile and wave back.

Surely the sadness will pass him by.


What words do we have? What words, at the end of a long day of listening? What words, for the sadness?

Father forgive us.  

We don’t know what we are doing. We don’t know how to love ourselves or each other. Or you. We are well-practiced in refusing the path that leads to peace…

Christ have mercy.

It sounds so lame… A cop out.

But I need this cop out… I need this Christ to have mercy… I don’t have enough of it, and mine seems so small and useless, so limp and atrophied, so conflicted and confused….

No, my mercy will not do. Christ, it will have to be yours. For the sadness.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jon #

    And this is life, messy, imperfect, hurtful, human, painful, yet joy comes in the morning. Yes, we pray for all people that joy may be found, for there is enough sadness.

    August 13, 2013
    • Well said, Jon. Amen.

      August 14, 2013
  2. mike #

    Father forgive us.

    We don’t know what we are doing. We don’t know how to love ourselves or each other. Or you ………………….…

    Christ have mercy.

    August 13, 2013
  3. Wow. Ryan, this is incredibly beautiful

    August 13, 2013
    • Thank you very much.

      August 14, 2013
  4. mike #

    with your approval:

    August 13, 2013
    • mike #

      Sorry, This is the one I meant to post:

      August 13, 2013
      • mike #

        …I give up

        August 13, 2013
    • This is beautiful—I’ve been listening all morning… Thanks, Mike.

      August 14, 2013
  5. Tanya #

    That is absolutely beautiful Ryan. Perfect after our discussion on truth, beauty, art, what really matters and finally poetry. I am afraid the poems I have written look like sad hallmark cards compared to this. Don’t worry I don’t feel bad about that, as we talked about last week we all have such different gifts and one of yours is definitely with words. It reminds me a tiny bit of some the things Walter Wagerin Jr. has written. I have a book with a few poems and short stories he has written and I really enjoy it.

    Any way, I will be returning to this post more than once I am sure both for its beauty, its honesty and its sadness. Thanks.

    P.S. I certainly hope you have written something for Naomi at some point. Every girl likes to be the inspiration for a poem now and then. 🙂

    August 14, 2013
    • Thank you, Tanya. I don’t really think of myself as a poet or of this piece as poetry, but I appreciate these very kind words.

      (Now, to write some romantic poetry… Should be a breeze :).)

      August 15, 2013

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