I’ve been wanting to go to a theater to see Inside Out. I never go to theaters any more; we always wait for the DVDs and watch movies in the comfort of our living room, with headphones and subtitles so we don’t have to strain to catch whispered, muttered, or lightning-fast dialog.
But Inside Out feels urgent. According to the reviews, it contains lessons on how to manage emotions, lessons that both young and old need to learn. (If you’re looking for a review of the movie, this is not it because I haven’t seen it yet. Read the reviewer who gushes over it in the staid NYTimes.)
I’ve been struggling with these lessons recently myself and I must be desperate if I’m thinking of turning to a Pixar movie for help. In the movie Amy Poehler stars as Joy, and Joy is my word of the year. But Joy, in both movie and life, is not always in charge.
We love Joy not only because it feels good but also because we function better when Joy (or her one of her cousins, Peace, Contentment, Gratitude, Enthusiasm) is in control. We face life with courage, even when it presents knotty problems. We find our way through or around the knots. We lift the moods of those around us, building a nest of conviviality in which everyone thrives.
But you can’t avoid pain and sorrow. Sometimes the suffering is personal, and sometimes your soul dips down into the pain of the world. Sometimes it’s a combination.
Last night I lay awake feeling deep outrage and sadness over the Charleston massacres and climate change and human cussedness in general. Interwoven with this were niggling worries about complicated plans for the coming weeks that are highly subject to chaos and uncertainty. My psyche wasn’t sorting these things out into any kind of hierarchy. They just kept me awake, feeling bad and knowing that every hour of sleep lost would take my mood (and courage) down a notch the next day.
Here is what I do when that happens, and I am curious to see whether the movie offers a similar way through. I let the sadness, the anger, the worries wash over me. I do not deny them their place and their validity. I give them their time. Last night they required two solid hours. I consider this a form of prayer.
Then, when something seems about to shift and sleep seems maybe possible, I make a simple request. I ask for help–through dreams, sleep, or any means whatsoever. Specific or unspecific help. This is another form of prayer. And then I pull on the eyemask and hope for a few hours of sleep.
Usually I get them and that is when the miracle happens. I do not remember my dreams of this morning but I woke with an old gospel song going through my head, not one we sing much these days in our church. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
It was not just the hymn but the Congolese version of it, with a keening obligato counterpoint floating over top, driving a pulsing rhythm, the music perfectly carrying the words. Are you weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Much as I discount hallelujah-Jesus-love as too simple for my theology, sometimes that’s just what it is. The faith that takes hold in the hours between waking sad and angry and waking again, refreshed, invigorated, ready to meet the day and the world as it is.
On Facebook I see a couple of reports by friends feeling the same Weltschmerz, lifted by similar divine incursions–a rock song, a vision. We are not alone.
How are you finding courage in these times?