I don’t think any of us can truly identify with the widespread heartbreak we are watching unfold across our television screens these days. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of tragedy on the news so far this year. I don’t know about you, but these events have made me contemplate times of mourning.
As I sat down to write the blog, I remembered these lines from a chapter in my upcoming book. The chapter is titled “Raindrops over the Atlantic” and focuseson Jesus’ Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn… for they will be comforted.” Thought I would share an excerpt with you:
Mourning is a time to be held…
I like to believe that as Jesus looked out on the crowd of followers proclaiming this blessing, He saw them for their eternal impact — for their true self – the lights and shadows that they cast across the span of eternity. However, if He understood that death was not the end — why did He bless mourning? Eugene Peterson translates this particular Beatitude as, “You’re blessed when you feel that you have lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One who is most dear to you.” I remember the moment a gentleman at my father’s funeral suggested I should be joyful that my dad had ‘gone home to Jesus.’ I also remember wanting to punch him in the nose. Religion denies mourning perhaps more fervently than popular culture. We want to deliver the Jesus antidote for pain. As we oftentimes attempt with religion, we offer a black and white answer with a period — a destination. The truth is that our answers lack the depth that God intends for mourning.
I have a lot of friends who are girl daddies. For years of my wife and I having only three boys, I was informed quite consistently that I was missing out. As we would talk about parenting, my friend Lance seemed fond of reminding me, “There is just something different about having a little girl.” I am crazy about my boys, and I didn’t quite believe my friends until our own little girl came along. I can tell you that when our baby girl sheds a tear, it is an entirely different experience than when my boys would cry. Her distress sounds an alarm and a household competition ensues to see who can be the first to comfort her. If I am not the first one there — I am out of luck. Those tears break my heart, and clearly break her brothers’ hearts, but there is something so special about that moment. Last evening, she fell running on the driveway and I watched the satisfaction of my youngest son as he was the one chosen to hold her and comfort her until she was ready to play again. There was a day not long ago where we could hold her all the time. Now it is only when she cries. Certainly, none of us would ever wish her to skin her knee — but when that little girl slows her pace to cry and be held for a moment — there is a house full of souls who think it is a beautiful thing to comfort her. As uncomfortable as popular culture is with death and mourning, religious culture is just as bad. Religion would have my daughter brush off her skinned knee — acknowledge that God will heal it — and never allow for the comfort of being held. It is not natural for us to simply allow for God to work. I wonder sometimes if I trust God to comfort people in loss. I believe that we often miss the meaning of comfort because we refuse to allow people the room for it to happen. I was in my twenties when my dad died of a heart attack. I am grateful to have received a ton of books and advice from my community during that time; I think people mean well. I will never forget a particular pastor named Bob. I don’t think I had seen him in several years, yet he drove five hours to show up at my father’s viewing. He didn’t offer advice, but took me by the shoulders and gave me a big hug. I don’t remember anything he said, but I do remember feeling like I was being hugged by God himself in that moment. It was the very moment that helped me through those few days. I certainly hope that Jesus means to come along and hold us like that when we are in times of distress. I genuinely hope thathe took a long pause in the middle of his statement and just for a moment felt the same about his audience as I do about my little girl when she is hurt. I hope He hugs like Pastor Bob. Maybe it is just that simple; God holds us until we are ready to get up and play life again.