Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's all about mourning

"Blessed are those who mourn..." 
Blessed are those who mourn.  Not just, "I recognize that you mourn," but BLESSED are you. Let that word roll around in your life for a moment.  It's not just okay, but--as blessed means--I AM WITH YOU.  And it's a good thing.  Some translations actually say, "Lucky for you" instead of "Blessed."  Lucky in the most miraculous, spiritual sense, because God-the-Incarnate has purpose and places value on this specific condition.  In this beatitude, the spiritually lucky condition is mourning.

Jesus doesn't say what kind of mourning is blessed in the second Beatitude. He simply says that, "I am on your side...when you mourn."  David tells us in Psalm 34: 18 that "God is close to the brokenhearted." Deep sadness is condition in which God dwells with us.

Mourning is part of life, of course.  It would be utter foolishness to expect to survive life on this planet without mourning something--someone, I should say.  I used to think it would be terrible to have lived a hundred years ago (and any time before then) when mothers routinely (!) expected that not every child they bore would live to adulthood.  How could they bear such pain, I wondered?  My own grandmother was pregnant five times, yet my mother was an only child.  That's a sad, sad thing.

 But in this technological age in which we live, there are other kinds of griefs.  We are inundated with images of loss via TV and the internet, and suffer our own corresponding feelings of loneliness, failure, confusion, doubt.
And all these things are part of the word mourning, which contains a sense of despair and desperation in it as well.

So it's striking that one of the very first things Jesus addresses in his public ministry is this very human, very real, ever-present insidious pain we all face--one way or another (and if we don't, we're either lying about it, or just too superficial to recognize it, I think).

The comfort of this Beatitude is the most straight-forward of the promises contained in the Beatitudes.  I can wrap my puny brain around this idea.  ".. for they shall be comforted." There are times in the middle of a person's pain when this promise seems impossible to believe.  But I've been around the mountains of mourning enough to know that comfort always comes.  Sometimes it comes via completely expected forms: the long, sacramental silence of sitting with Beve as we drove back across the state after my father's memorial service.  He just drove with his hand on my knee as tears streamed down my face so continually that I could have sworn I'd worn grooves on my cheeks.  But other times, that comfort has come in the most unexpected ways, forms that only God could have directed.  An email from a person I haven't heard from in ages, a call from a friend asking me to tea, just a word or an answer to a question I asked so long before I didn't remember.  These things comfort.  They've happened over and over and over in my life.  The key is to pay attention and recognize them when they come.

But here's the other part of the equation.  Sometimes God asks us to be His agent of comfort to those around us.  We may not realize our words have to do with comfort, but the nudge to call or visit or speak a word is there.  That's how He means to comfort others.  We are the Incarnation now, you know.  I know I'm a broken record when I say this, but it's the privilege of eternity that we're filled with His Spirit, and are entrusted with His Kingdom work.

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