Prior to my family and I seeing the movie “Inside Out,” my husband remarked to our guys that their mama–me–might be moved to tears because the film features a young girl moving with her family several states away.
“Me, cry?” I scoffed at the thought. It’s an animated movie, for crying out loud, no pun intended.
Yeah. So. Okay, I cried.
In the movie, eleven-year-old Riley moves from Minnesota to California and it is an emotional upheaval, which is, as you know, the premise of the movie.
In real life, thirteen-year-old me moved from Alabama to Texas and, like Riley, I found the transition difficult.
Also like Riley I experienced the horror and embarrassment of crying at school.
It was in Mr. Whitlow’s eighth grade history class. Mr. Whitlow was giving a test that day and having joined the class mid-year I was not only ignorant of most of the test material but also overwrought and overwhelmed and I cried.
Interestingly the only student in the class to pay me any mind, to even notice my tears much less offer any sort of comfort, was a boy of brashness and bravado, the kind of guy who seemed destined to be a drop out statistic. “Hey, it will be okay,” he told me. “Don’t cry. You’ll be fine.”
I’m ashamed to admit it but we probably never spoke again. You know as well as I do how the middle school social structure works. Though I have long forgotten his name, his kindness to me I will remember.
However ignorant my classmates may have wanted to appear, Mr. Whitlow noticed my tears and called me outside. He too assured me that I would be fine. Is it the test? Do you miss your friends? Are you okay? Yes, yes, and I didn’t know. He told me I didn’t have to take the test after all. He told me to come by and talk to him anytime. I didn’t but I knew I could.
Call me a martyr but I did take the exam and out of sheer grace Mr. Whitlow gave me a twenty-point bonus so I could have a B. Mr. Whitlow, I do not know where you are now but your kindness to me I will also remember.
Transition is hard. Moving away from friends and all that is familiar is heartbreaking and sad. But, as “Inside Out” attempts to portray, sadness gives weight and perspective to joy. The movie character Joy tries to preserve the happy core memories, not realizing that the sad ones are equally as critical. And this is Biblical, is it not? Paul discovers grace through his thorn in the flesh. Not only that but he reminds us that it is the light and momentary struggles that achieve an eternal weight of glory.
We see this most starkly in the death of Jesus. What greater heartbreak than the cross? But what greater joy than the Resurrection three days later? Sadness may endure for a night, the Psalmist writes, but joy comes in the morning. This is the tension of life as we know it: sadness and joy, heartbreak and hope, struggle and glory.
Though thirteen-year old me surely doubted, I did survive. Forty-seven year old me can see the Lord’s hand at work then and since, weaving a story, yes, a story of both loss and gain, but ultimately a story of grace and redemption. The sad times become as precious to me as the happy because there I see and know the provision and providence of my good and gracious God.