In Pixar’s new movie, Inside Out, Joy’s classic response to any difficulty is “We can fix this.” Joy is a personification of 12-year old Riley’s emotion, as is Sadness, Anger, and Fear, among others. The movie is witty and clever, classic Pixar, as it lets us peer into Riley’s brain as she deals with a traumatic move from Minnesota to San Francisco, a jarring relocation that ripples through her personality.
Aside from the plentiful humor (as when we are given a glimpse of the inside out of Dad, Mom, a boy, and a classmate, and even dogs and cats) there’s a lot to take from Inside Out — the importance of family; the value of long-term memories (even if some must fade); the resilience of a personality rooted in deeply felt, core memories of love and home. But the best takeaway for me was the importance of both sadness and joy, indeed their inseparability, in the life of a fully-orbed personality, to our humanity.
My only quibble is that the real pairing is not joy and sadness but joy and sorrow. Sadness belongs with that other ephemeral feeling, happiness, what Bob Dylan once called a “yuppie” word, back when we had yuppies. Sorrow and joy go much deeper, and for the Christian joy is not so much emotion as a state of being anchored in faith, hope, and love — the natural state of the believer. David as Psalmist, delivered by God from his foes and from death, weds sorrow and joy when he says “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning,” and later, when he seems overtaken by the Lord’s rescue, when he exclaims that “You have turned my mourning into dancing” (Ps. 30:5b & 11a).
If we’re honest, hidden in all joy is a memory of sorrow and an expectation that, because of sin, sorrow will be with us always. It’s a pairing that endures. The Bible doesn’t tell us if there is a memory of sorrow in heaven. There is the promise that in the new heaven and new earth that “neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4b). Yet, in some redeemed way, I think the memory of sorrow remains, seen through the lens of joy, redeemed. If a sinless Jesus wept, so might we in our sinless state shed tears that issue out of sorrow but land in joy. It hearkens back to another time when the Psalmist says “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5-6). ]
Joy went back for sadness. She wasn’t whole without her. She couldn’t fix Riley alone. So in heaven, a newly purposed sorrow, shorn of sadness, may come along, a part of who we are. I don’t at all mind a sorrow without sadness, a sorrow with joy that makes me whole. I even had a silent tear in Inside Out, the kind that wells up but quietly sinks back down before brimming over and rolling down your cheek. But then, I’m a lush. I still can’t think about Bambi’s father without a catch in my throat.