A pastor I was working with once told me, “Christians shouldn’t be melancholy.” I did not agree with his statement but could not articulate a response. Last night, as I flew away from my family once again, I figured out why.
Melancholy is not the same thing as hopelessness or irony. Life is in many ways melancholy because it is, well, life. What do you think Abram felt while leaving his world to follow God’s call? Or the disciples, as they were sent from their family and friends and the support system of the known and comfortable? There is exhilaration and anticipation, sure, but there is also sadness and a sense of loss.
Melancholy is a wry smile. It is the dalliance of intimacy and isolation. It is saying goodbye to your spouse again, even as you acknowledge the beauty and benefit of having repeatedly said goodbye to your spouse. It is the stoicism of the night and the hope of a good sleep. It is knowing that even though the present moment is sad, there is another morning ahead.
Melancholy is actually good, when it serves to remind and clarify. It’s why the Bible gives us lament.
It has been almost four months since I left my family to start a new job. The newness of the journey has passed, and I am deeply ready for resolution to our separation. What I feel today is February, when the longing for spring overrides the joy of new snow. Yet I am not scared of sadness or loss. What scares me is the thought of having lived a life where I knew neither highs nor lows.