I must tell you that my name isn’t all Happy Happy Joy Joy, even though many a stranger has complimented me for such a happy name! Once it even brought a woman to tears. Because she was so happy.
I remember after my family welcomed my delicious baby sister, Bethany (a darling name), I got ahold of one of the baby names books lying around.
I do admit my chagrin for possessing a name that could not be found as easily as Brittany or Anna—two names I adored. First I found Joy, the meaning was obvious: joy. Not Princess or Beautiful, but nice enough. However, when I discovered that Mary meant bitter, I confess it stung a little. Salt in the already tender wound of my differences piling up on top of red frizzy locks and needing correctional lenses. What would it have hurt when they saw my noggin was comparable to that of Woodstock to do a girl a solid and name me Amy: beloved by all?
My Mom’s a smart one she is, no one can make crap up quicker. So when I inquired as to why she would bestow such a name upon me—regardless of how clever combining my grandmothers’ names is—she replied matter-of-factly, “Because you are so well balanced. Like bitter/sweet.” It could be due to my experience of us baking my favorite cookies with Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet morsels, or perhaps because I was six and had not yet mastered the art of arguing with grown-ups, but somehow that little explanation satisfied my inquest. I could accept that some people are given beautiful everything, some are not, and I would have a bit of both.
For many years I could dismiss the unpleasant half of my namesake crouched in the shadows of my psyche as an omen. Yes, Yes! Nice stranger woman, my name does mean happiness! See my smile and hear our laughter! Just disregard that other part. I can be happy and pretty and pleasant and nice and liked. But no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many boxes I checked, I could not escape that little black rain cloud.
Life is never one thing.
I am never one thing.
I am both happy and sad. Excited and disappointed. Proud and insecure. Deep and shallow. Mad as hell and tickled pink. I am both/and.
My name (and my Mom–thanks, Mom) gave me permission for all of it.
How interesting that decades later, our culture honors the idea of harmony, of yin yang, equilibrium. Balance.
Oh, don’t get the wrong idea–I am not balanced per se. I swing the pendulum. So somewhere in the middle of my swinging I hit balance now and then. But what I am saying is, I understand tension. I understand that at any given moment, two seemingly opposing feelings can be true at once. I understand fluctuating. I understand always finding yourself in the middle. My enneagram score says I am made up of a little of each type.
I know I am not alone in this. I know many of you find yourselves in the middle, the one that can see all sides, the one that feels torn constantly. And do you know what that means we are?
Bridges. We are the ones that fit between the here and there.
How nice it must be for one possessing certitude. But no, no, not you and I. Certainty begins to chaff after a while. Because we Bridges have a tasted something: our flourishing depends upon our ability to stretch amidst the tension. Every swing has let us see over fences, glimpse new horizons, and reach for new possibilities.
The world needs us right now. Whether you find yourselves in church pews, business meetings, at the bar, in the can, or out to lunch, it is time to do what you do: embrace the tension and be the bridge.
The bridge between joy and bitterness.
Between black and white.
Between right and left.
Between apathy and action.
Fear and Love.
Bitterness cannot overshadow joy. Just as joy cannot be itself without the bitterness. We feel one, in order to embrace the other.This is the way forward: feel and embrace.
Feel and embrace.
We were made for this.
Mary…it also means rebellion.
Rebellion of Joy.