Bittersweet is a plant. It has bright colored berries that would seem sweet and juicy, but are actually toxic and harmful if eaten. Another definition of bittersweet is, “arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain” (Lexico). This is what most people are familiar with.
Life is generally like this. A little bit bitter. A little bit sweet. It mixes together and creates the story of our life. Sometimes the bitter seems toxic – and maybe it is, in which case, seek help – but most of the time, the bitter is just a time of growth.
My son just graduated from high school. Bittersweet was the one description I think I heard and felt through this whole experience.
Bitter – My first born completely finished this chapter of his childhood. That book is completed. It is shelved; to be looked at like a scrapbook full of memories. He’ll be leaving and living across an ocean soon; 12-24 hours away.
Sweet – We’re proud of his accomplishments. This new adventure is just beginning and it is exciting. Who will he become? How will he grow?
These two words together capture the feelings of a parent or sibling – and possibly even the graduate, as well.
But, aren’t most transitions “bittersweet”?
Bitter – packing, saying good-bye to places, saying good-bye to people, watching your children hurt
Sweet – maybe living closer to family, new adventure with new foods & culture, recognizing how many good friends you have
As this summer plays out and the time gets closer to board that plane with my oldest, my emotions teeter back and forth from feeling bitter and sad, to sweet and proud and then back to sad.
I want him to go, yet I don’t.
I want him to grow up, yet I want him to need me, to need his father.
I believe this is the dilemma of many parents. We work and endure those early years to train our kids to be responsible mature adults, but when the time comes to send them off we feel that this isn’t the right time. It’s too soon.
As a Christian, I wondered if the word “bittersweet” was in the Bible. I couldn’t find the word, but I found a passage where both words are used. Exodus 15:22-25. This is the point in the story where Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. They were headed into the Desert of Shur, where there was no water.
The people complained because the only water they found was at the place “Marah”, which was bitter.
Moses cried out to God.
God showed him a piece of wood.
Moses threw the piece of wood into the water.
Sweet water. Drinkable water.
It doesn’t say, but I’m guessing the crowds were happy once again – or at least relieved.
This little word search led me to an old story from long ago, in which God used a stick to make bitter water sweet.
My situation isn’t terrible. It’s not life-threatening, but it has some bitterness that is harder to walk through.
It requires trust.
Trusting my son.
Right now sitting in my home where my son is just in the next room I can honestly say it’s easy to trust.
I know that when “move-in” day comes and I drive away with him standing in the parking lot of his dorm, my eyes will be blurry from the streams of bittersweet tears as I put that trust into action.
How have you seen “bittersweet” play out in your own life?