Last night, Andy and I went to the Dallas Bach Society's presentation of Handel's Messiah. We had these great seats right next to the balcony wall, where I could just huddle in the corner and ugly-cry to my heart's content.
I always bawl my eyes out at Handel's Messiah. Last night, I really started wondering WHY I get so emotional with this thing every single year.
I mean, I listen to the whole thing every year. I wrote an Advent devotional based on it. It's not like any of this is a big surprise, musically or lyrically.
But every time I listen to it, I'm a WRECK. What is up with that?
So I started talking to myself in my therapist voice. (Silently, so nobody would dial 911.)
I said to myself what I would say to anybody else: "Tell me about these tears."
And after a lot more tears, myself said, "It feels like Jesus gets it. It feels like he understands. And it's just a relief to know that I'm normal, and this is okay. It sucks, but it's okay."
There's a big huge section of Messiah (Part the Second) that's about the suffering of Jesus, which reassures me that it's okay to experience suffering.
It doesn't mean I'm bad and wrong and out of God's will when I suffer. Jesus suffered. I suffer. It doesn't mean God doesn't love us. Suffering is just a thing that happens here. It sucks. But it's okay.
The longest piece in all of Handel's Messiah is the air for alto in Part the Second on He was despised.
The text is from Isaiah 53:53, and 50:6:
He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. He hid not his face from shame and spitting.
Jesus totally gets it.
Because he has been right where we are.
Suffering. Sorrowing. Grieving. Mourning. Weeping.
Especially right now, when it seems like the world is coming apart at the seams, and my grief is enormous for all of the suffering, it was good to sit for a long time with "He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
It's normal to feel bad when things are so bad.
Jesus gets it. He gets me. I needed to hear that.
The other little bit of wonderful that I took away from last night was the bass soloist, or as I like to call him, Dr. Darkness. I kind of feel like he gets a bad deal in the world of Messiah soloists.
The tenor soloist gets to come out and say the magnificent first words of the whole Messiah: "Comfort ye my people" and then "every valley shall be exalted."
The soprano soloist (who was truly spectacular last night) gets a bunch of happy stuff: the angels, and speaking peace unto the heathen, and "I know that my Redeemer liveth."
Even the alto soloist makes out pretty well with pieces like "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion" and "He shall feed his flock."
But the bass soloist is like the Grinch who Stole Christmas, all the way through. The whole thing starts off so nicely with people being comforting and valleys being exalted and glory being revealed.
And then the bass soloist shows up and says:
Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts: Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come. Haggai 2:6-7
Nobody wants shaking! Why can't we skip the shaking and get straight to the desire of all nations showing up? From there on out, the poor bass soloist keeps coming out and saying things nobody wants to hear.
Last night's bass soloist was highly emotionally congruent with the texts he was singing. After "Why do the nations rage," he practically stomped back to his seat in a snit. As if he was just disgusted with the whole thing.
So, at the very end of the whole shebang, here's what happens in Part the Third. Each of the soloists gets their big final moment, and you know what Dr. Doom's part is at this point?
Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. I Corinthians 15:51-53
It's as if the bass solost has had to tell us the hard truth all the way through, so his final reward is getting to tell us that the worst of the worst, death, never gets the final word.
The final word is this mystery: we will all be changed, from death to life everlasting.
Some of us have this job of holding space for pain and suffering and darkness.
It's personality, it's tragedy, it's life, it's some perfect storm of all of the above--but it ends up that bearing sorrow is what we're called to do in the world.
It's ended up that way for me, and I suspect for you, too, or you'd get sick of hearing me talk about this, and you'd unsubscribe.
But as we hold this pain, we hold this mystery, also: we will all be changed.
We live in the dark, and yet the light shines.
Small and far away sometimes, but it shines. The darkness can't overcome it.
And together, we hold hands in the dark and we wait and we hope.
And sometimes ugly-cry, which sucks. But it's okay.