By Kelly Wahlquist
If you ask me to write down my favorite quotes, a vast majority will come from Scripture, many from the saints, some from something I’ve read along the way, and undoubtedly a few from songs… “You fill up my senses, like a night in the forest…” Thus, it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite quotes is from a bible-reading songwriter who can also carry a tune and light up the screen with her smile, even in the most somber of scenes.
In the movie Steel Magnolias, there is a pivotal moment when four women gather around their dear friend, M’Lynn, to comfort and support her as she stands in the cemetery above her daughter’s casket. As anger and grief collide, the scene comes to a climax, and M’Lynn breaks down in a powerful heart-retching outburst. (One of Sally Field’s best moments on screen, in my humble opinion.) The matriarch cracks a joke to lighten the mood, and the friends begin to giggle. A few scenes later, Miss Clairee apologizes for the timing of her joke, and Truvy (played by Dolly Parton) assures her all is well, replying, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
I love that quote! To me, it speaks of grief and glory and perfectly weaves together the reality of our humanity and the mystery of God.
To be human is to know suffering. On this earth, we encounter physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. But we are not created for this world; we are created to live with God forever in heaven. In His Wisdom, our Heavenly Father allows us to suffer. In His great mercy, He brings us comfort. God’s comfort comes to us in many ways, most prominently through His Word, Sacred Scripture, and through our relationships, cherished friends. And most importantly, God’s comfort comes to us as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.
During Advent, the words of the Prophet Isaiah fill our liturgies with the message that God’s judgment is coming, but so is His comfort.
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of choice wines—of fat things full of marrow, of choice wines well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 25: 6-8).
When the Lord God comforts, He goes all in. He doesn’t just nourish us; He provides a feast with the best of the best—rich food and choice wines well refined. When the Lord God comforts, He doesn’t merely give us a reprieve from that which enslaves us; He swallows up death forever! He erases and replaces; tears are wiped away; sorrow turned to joy. In the presence of the Lord, our hearts will rejoice!
Perhaps, someday, if we meet Dolly Parton in heaven, we will look back on these days and share a good laugh with her—a laugh that is so full of joy that it overflows… with heavenly tears.