Playdates with God: The Bright Sadness

Unclenching the fists is a soul-baring release and this first week of Lent has been about the open hand. Last night our small group started a new Easter journey together and we talked about footwashing and how to be a servant and what that really means. Each person shared what this season has meant to them and as I listened to their stories of family and church and traditions, my heart swelled within the walls of me. I knew it meant there was One more with us, and I had to restrain these hands from groping the air around me—reaching out for a touch from the Footwasher.
A week of little deaths, that’s what it’s been and I think I understand why the Orthodox Church calls the season of Lent the Bright Sadness. Celebration and mourning have taken it in turns to stir my deep places and my eyes are opened to the truth that we cannot follow Christ and remain unchanged.
We had another class on preaching this weekend and our teacher kept dropping crumbs—saying things that seemed like common sense—little things—but really…they are everything. Things like, “It’s important for us to live the best lives we can; it’s important for us to live godly lives” and “It’s important to be a regular reader of the Bible—the more familiar with scripture you are, the easier it will be” and “The sermon should always point back to God” and “We have to take time to listen for God.”
We met in the basement of our church, a space used for preschool. As I listened to her wise words I kept getting distracted by blocks of paper with crayola drawings taped together on the wall. “Friendship Quilt” it said at the top, and each block was an individual child’s interpretation of what that meant. I looked around at my classmates—these who have walked this journey with me for going on three years now—and realized I love them. They are my friends. What a beautiful quilt we make.
During Lent I want to burrow away—hide in books and words and prayer. But I know I need these people. It was John Wesley who said,
“Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.”
It can’t be done alone, this transformation. It requires a rubbing up against each other, a shared realization that these are more than words…they are resurrection. Wesley also said that he liked to set himself on fire so others would come to watch him burn.
A flame spreads. Stand close to the fire. Let’s kindle together through this bright sadness.
How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button:


Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also: 

On In Around button


  1. says

    Laura, you have such a beautiful heart and I can so relate to Lent being a “bright sadness” and an experience of little deaths. It often feels weighty and I also want the luxury of hiding myself away. This year I am more focused on more of Him and less of what “I” do and give up. So far, it has been rich, but not less hard. Walking with you friend. I find myself praying for you on my walks.

  2. says

    There’s a depth to sadness that doesn’t always show itself in joy. I think this is the wisdom of the church calendar. But then we move to the joy, because there’s an innocence in joy that we also need to feel, to stay sane and whole.

  3. says

    The Bright Sadness. I’ve not heard the phrase before. But I get it.

    Thanks, Laura, for letting me huddle close to you and other believers here in this space, with the One among us.

    “I knew it meant there was One more with us.”

  4. says

    I love this post, Laura! Only in Christ, I think, could such joy and sorrow be intermingled.

    “we cannot follow Christ and remain unchanged” is a truth that grows deeper over time.

    I love your pic’! I believe I caught that same evening sky just moments earlier than you did. You can check it out here:!/photo.php?fbid=196057133828792&set=a.135622493205590.18886.100002735218632&type=1&theater

    Have a blessed day, my friend!

  5. says

    Oh, my, Laura! Almost every sentence calls for its own separate framing:

    “I knew it meant there was One more with us….”.

    “A week of little death…my eyes are opened to the truth that we cannot follow Christ and remain unchanged.”

    I have a thought to add, but don’t want to muddy up this comment with it. I’ll do another.

  6. says

    Back again.

    “A week of little deaths….”

    I just finished reading these words elsewhere, “The tradition of Lent is one way of mourning the death that sin has caused in our lives.”

    I don’t think this is exactly what you were referring to (top) but your words and these seemed somehow connected.

    Your post today is a treasure to be reread. I will.

  7. says

    Laura-I am encouraged by the John Wesley reference that we must burn as a light for Him, that social holiness is what Jesus was all about–shining for Him.
    such a powerful, quiet post.

  8. says

    You challenge me here. The solitude part comes way too easy for me. It is the social places where I struggle. As one who has quilted in the past your analogy helps. Without all the pieces the quilt is never finished. Thank you.

  9. says

    I’ve never before read that quote from Wesley. And, the more this internet experiment has allowed me to rub up against beautiful people like you, the more I look forward to burning brightly together.

  10. says

    Jesus asked us to be salt as well as light. Salt does not work at a distance — it has to mingle with the food to be effective. To experience the fullness of Christian joy, we must share it with others. Thanks for the wonderful post.

  11. says

    Common sense gets such a bad rap sometimes, like we have to have our heads up in the clouds in order to be faithful. But faith and common sense are so bound up in each other, how can you separate them?

    I have never heard that phrase before, “The Bright Sadness.” Beautiufl.

  12. says

    Oh, I am going to cling to that new-to-me phrase: Bright Sadness. Yes, I get it and I’ve tasted it and I ache for the day when life will just be bright, not sad. That’s how the story ends, but for now we’re stuck in the middle, aren’t we? Thanks for sharing your heart. I’m honored to link with you today.

  13. says

    My heart was nodding in agreement with you as I read your wonderful post so full of beauty and truth…so rich…grateful to be here and a small part of your online friendship quilt …thanks, Laura 🙂

  14. says

    A week of little deaths…I love that image…a constant dying to self especially during this time. May this Lenten time refine us…through the hard, beauty and through the deaths, life.

  15. says

    I’m sorry for the “week of little deaths,” but the “bright sadness” is a beautiful thought. Like you, I want to burrow into books even more in this season, but I am missing even the blog community. It’s not the same counting my multitudes alone.

    Dear Laura, in God’s mercy may this week be full of little Easters for you, a foretaste of the celebrations to come in April and in the Great Someday. May there be plenty of bright candles to warm any sadness. Grace to you in Jesus.

  16. says

    Love the image of us kindling the fire together. Could picture you and your thoughts interacting with the settings and people as I read. Thanks for making it so real I feel as if we’ve met face-to-face.

  17. says

    One of the things I love about Lent is the shifting movement from solitude to community. I think we need both to move through this ‘bright sadness’ well.

    I used to plan small, simple liturgical evensong services during Lent. And it was always a fairly small circle of friends who gathered for simple songs, liturgy, a brief meditation on the word and communion – about 35 most weeks.

    But what was interesting was that the list of people who made up that 35 each week varied widely. There was usually a list of about 85-100 names by the time the six weeks were done.

    Many of us recognize, almost intuitively, that we need companions on this Lenten way. We need time alone to reflect (repentance, prayer and almsgiving – the 3 pillars of the Lenten walk). But we need to be together, too – to hear different voices speak into this season; to stand shoulder to shoulder as we tear off the bread and dip it in the cup. You’ve captured this in your lovely vignette/reflection, Laura. Thanks so much.

  18. says

    “Celebration and mourning have taken it in turns to stir my deep places and my eyes are opened to the truth that we cannot follow Christ and remain unchanged.” Oh, thank you for the blessing of your words today. They stir my heart, definitely His words to me through you — and I am so thankful. Beautiful and challenging and joy-filled, with hope.

  19. says

    Meeting in small groups does bring each one close in thought and like mindedness. Gleaning from a teacher wisdom and learning to apply those truths cause the students to become like their teacher.

  20. says

    Oh, well, I loved all of this and smiled and then especially Wesley’s quote:} Then you came to the end and spoke more of Wesley and how he liked to put himself on fire and let others watch him burn and well, you know that my heart just lept at that:} I love the ‘bright sadness’ too…like a beautiful ache and this resurrection-themed journey we walk in this veil of tears and we learn to do it with more of ourselves, more surrender, more resolve, more confidence that we walk the best and only way to life!

  21. says

    Such a beautiful post — I love stopping by here to visit. I love your writing style, and can relate to so much of what you write.

    It’s a struggle for me, to draw closer to God, and NOT isolate myself from others. I read another post this week (Michelle Derusha, I think) about understanding that we are all in this ‘friendship quilt’ together — striving for a deeper relationship with God, no matter how different we appear on the outside.

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