Copyright: Karen Larsen photography

A few weeks ago in General Conference, one of the speakers shared this poem:

Sorrow prepares you for joy.

It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter.

It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.

It pulls up rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.

Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.

See the Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi (1925-40) trans. Reynold A Nicholson, vol. 5, 132. Quoted from Elder L. Todd Budge, Consistent and Resilient Trust

I am not sure who the author of the poem is. BUT…..

I have been pondering it for a little while now. I love the imagery of violent sweeping, shaking yellow leaves from my heart, and rotten roots being tossed out. I love the thought that sorrow makes room for greater joy. I do not like sorrow. It is painful. It hurts. It is not fun and it takes a lot of energy. I have spent most of my life trying to figure out how I can avoid sorrow altogether. But I have experienced what the poem teaches. Sorrow has allowed me to clean out old feelings and dusty behavior and has given me space, emotional and mental space, to start fresh and make changes and those changes have brought me new hope and greater peace and a richer life. I AM more, because I have allowed space and time for sorrow.

There is a book I have that I LOVE! I was going to write a book review about it, but I will just tell you about it here. It is called, Bonds That Make Us Free. It is an amazing book! The basic premise of the book is that if we are angry at someone else, it is because we have mistreated them. I know, I know….you are thinking, (Scoff) No way!! That cannot possibly be true! I thought the same thing. In fact, the first time I read the book, this was my experience. I had just dropped a pretty nasty, scathing letter into the mail for one of ‘my friends’. We live in the same city. She was going to get the letter tomorrow. I had been sitting on it for three days before I mailed it. I had asked my husband to proof it for me and to help me to soften it or adjust it if it was not Christ-like. I thought I was completely justified in expressing my thoughts and feelings as I had in the letter. I sat down and read the first chapter. It is a very intellectual book. I had to close it a couple of times to process what he was saying and once I understood what he was saying, decide if I agreed with it. As I was processing, I thought, wait a minute….if what he is saying is true, then in this situation with my friend, I have mistreated HER? That cannot be true! I thought deeper about what he was saying. I walked back through the interaction in my head. I tried to look at it from someone who saw it from outside of the relationship. As I was doing so, I found the place where I mistreated her! I was dumbfounded…… Dr. Warner was right! I was wrong! I was hooked! I continued reading the book. But not before I called my friend and said, ‘Hey, uh, by the way, tomorrow you are going to get a nasty letter in the mail from me….and uh, I just want you to know that I have reconsidered my feelings and recognized that I do not feel that way and I am really sorry and I would appreciate it if you would just tear up that letter and throw it away BEFORE you read it.’ She just laughed. And said it was no big deal. When she got the letter she read it. Then we talked about it later.

I have read the book a couple of times since then. Every time, I am fascinated as I find new gems of information. The last time I read it, I recognized this truth: Sorrow and grief are emotions that do not carry accusation—meaning, those feelings are not necessarily blamed on others. I suppose we can blame others for them. But sorrow and grief are feelings inside, emotional pain that accompany a sense of loss—whether that loss is a relationship, an ability, a resource, a comfort, or any other number of things.

It has been my experience that most people do not know how to respond to another’s sorrow. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They do not know what to say or how to say it. They truly do not want to hurt the other person. They recognize things are sensitive and so to avoid the possibility of causing further pain or stress, they just avoid the person altogether. Then the person experiencing the sorrow feels isolated and alone. Sometimes that is OK. But a lot of times people just need to know others are thinking about them and wanting to help them. I have found the best response seems to just be direct, but gentle. “I heard about your loss. I am so sorry. That must be a very difficult thing to be managing. Would you like to talk about it?” or “Can I help you with anything?” People will usually just tell you if they don’t want to talk or want your help. How people respond to your compassion and outreach is more of a reflection of where they are emotionally, so you don’t have to take it personally. And if they need a friend or an ear, now they have one.

With my sorrow and grief over the last two years, I haven’t really wanted to talk to anyone about it. If I have, I call those I can trust and reach out to them. But for the most part, I have just sought out my Father in Heaven through prayer. That has been my greatest comfort. He knows what I am feeling, and why, and He can usually give me things to do that help adjust my perspective about my experiences and feelings. Service to others, paradoxically, provides a major focus shift. As I serve others, my personal sorrows and griefs are lightened. I know, I know… can you reach out and serve when you are so sad and hurting inside? You just decide you are going to. I don’t know how it works, I only know that when I do it, it does! Every time! Just try it! The next time you feel down and sad, say to yourself, who else is feeling this way? What can I do for them? And then DO IT! You will feel better!

Sometimes my sorrow, grief and sadness are due to the actions of others. Sometimes those feelings are a response to my own choices. Other times they come because of things that happen in my life, where I have little or no control over them. But regardless of why I am experiencing those emotions or what my reaction is to….eventually all of those responses culminate in an attitude of submission. I always end up at the place where this is just the way it is now. I can rant, scream, have a temper tantrum, be frustrated that this is where things are…..but always in the end, I cannot change it and I have to come to terms with my new reality. Like the poem says, I really am shaking out the yellow leaves, ripping up old roots, and violently sweeping things in my life and heart to make room for new and better and greater joy. But I have to be willing to embrace it.

I wish I could embrace the process. I wish I didn’t fear it or run away from it. Not because I like pain, but because I understood the process well enough to look to the joy at the other end–to recognize and to remember that the process of grief and sadness really is about changes that make me grow. I LOVE the story of the current bush!

Watch it here!

As I am mourning and lamenting when things have not gone as I have wanted, or as I have planned, I have to remind myself, I am not the Gardener here. God has a different plan for me than the one I have seen for myself. He knows me just a little bit better than I know myself. He loves me more too. And He knows the potential I have to become and He has already seen the vision of who I am and what I need to do to get there. I need to have faith and trust in His plan for me and recognize that He has removed those things from my life because He is making room for me to experience greater joy and happiness. Hang on, Carin……the Light will come!

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