“Come away…from a world more full of weeping than you can understand”
So ends the repeated refrain of the poem Stolen Child by W. B. Yeats. (See also song by same name by The Waterboys.) The poem itself is a rendering of a narrative repeated in a myriad of Irish legends concerning fairies who seek to convince children to join them on a mythical island. In some of those legends both the means and ends of such ventures are less than benevolent, but in others the motivation is rather sympathetic and the end is protective. As we think of coping with a world more full of weeping than any of us can understand, it seems to me the poem is partially on target.
First, the description of the state of affairs is correct. Ours is a world more full of weeping that we can understand. Now to be fair it’s also filled with more beauty and grace and laughter than we can understand. But then, we don’t tend to need to understand those dynamics. We just enjoy them and say, “Thank you.” But the rougher parts trip us up, as well they should—pain, grief, war, violence, injustice, disease, broken promises and shattered dreams. If something within us did not cry out for understanding and redemption and healing in the face of such, one would have to doubt if we really were made in the image of God. And at times, it can just be too much, this world full of weeping.
So, what do we do when we find ourselves in such a place. Well, I do think there is some merit to poem’s suggestion to “come away,” at least for a while. In the midst of being overwhelmed by the struggles of life, it’s not only OK to find some space, some quiet; it’s warranted, needed. Give yourself that grace. Find the space and time you need to tend to your own grief and pain, maybe with another’s help, certainly with God’s help. Remember Jesus wept. He weeps with us still.
But “away” is not where you want to remain. This is where the poem breaks down. You “come away” precisely because doing such will enable you to “come back,” to re-engage, to reintegrate into the people and places and roles that you love and that love you. Life is too rich and precious to stay on the island with the fairies. The world, the real world, is where you will find pain, yes, but also beauty and meaning and love and service that might just dry some of those weeping tears, your own as well as others. Yes, such re-engagement is the end game of our sorrow. Resurrection is far more, but it’s at least that.
Well, if by chance you find yourself needing to “come away” for a while and need someone to do that with you, I do hope you will reach out to a friend, a colleague, a deacon, a minister, a family member. In addition we have a wonderful group of well-trained Stephen Ministers who will walk that road with you, too. But know you are not alone. You are loved. You are cherished. Your gifts are needed to help heal this world. But for now create the space, the sanctuary you need.
Written by David Breckenridge