3 Obscure Sorrows You’ll Recognize

I recently read The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig. It contains such gems as:

“Harke: n. a painful memory that you look back upon with unexpected fondness, even though you remember having dreaded it at the time; a tough experience that has since been overridden by the pride of having endured it, the camaraderie of those you shared it with, or the satisfaction of having a good story to tell.” (from hark back, a command spoken to hunting dogs to retrace their course so they can pick up a lost scent.”

As I read I was reminded that we are capable of such depth as humans. I was also reminded that we all experience and carry so much loss.

It got me wondering about the obscure sorrows that are unique to us. Here are three for you to read and see if you recognize yourself in them.


n. the distressing feeling when you turn to share the most perfect word for a situation and remember that those around you don’t speak that language. Sure you can say the word and they may smile at you out of kindness, but they won’t really get it.

(From miss and vocbulary and ia because I like the sound of it)


n. the sad realization that life goes on without you; it can be experienced from both side of being on and off the field; on the field and your friends start getting married, buying a house, having babies, driving minivans and your life has less and less connecting points; off the field your local friends and teammates and neighborhoods and country of love continue on.

(From creeping for slowly and fill for the hole you think cannot possibly ever be filled, but you are wrong)


n. the strong desire for people you love to know what something tastes like and it is simply impossible to recreate it because the oil is different, a spice doesn’t exist, or you have to make something you normally buy at the store. This can be experienced with local friends when you try to share a part of your “home” cooking and with friends and family when you try to share part of your “other home” cooking.

(From gastro meaning stomach and longings)

It was only after I started working on this post that I realized you’ll read this during Lent, a season of sorrows. Sorrow over our sin, not of misvocabia, creeping-fill, and gastrolongings. It is right and good to be broken over our sin and it is right and good to pause and name some of our obscure sorrows as cross-cultural workers. If you’re wanting to lament in an interactive and creative way, Global Trellis’ workshop this month will guide you in 3 creative ways to lament.

Do you recognize yourself in misvocabia, creeping-fill, and gastrolongings? What would you add to our dictionary of missionary obscure sorrows?

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Amy Young

Life enthusiast. Author. Sports lover. Jesus follower. Equipper of cross-cultural worker. Amy is the founder of Global Trellis, co-founder of Velvet Ashes, hosts reading challenges at The Messy Middle, and is the author of five books (Looming TransitionsLove, AmyEnjoying NewslettersGetting Started, and Connected.)

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