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We Must Weep




A few weeks ago the darkness took over the sky. Now, anytime after 3pm, you can feel the downward pull of gravity telling you to sink into your bones.  The same week that the sky became dark in Massachusetts, the temperatures dropped and the dread of winter became a talking point in day-to-day conversation. People here have not recovered from the winter of 2015 when snow piled 9 feet high in the span of 6 weeks. There is a tension in their voice when they talk about shoveling and being stuck indoors.


I love the fall. I love the change of the sky to clear blue when the air becomes dry. I love the colors of the leaves and the quiet rain. But, this fall has not been restful but restless for me. Under the trees laden with wet leaves I have not found peace and quiet, but a silent roar of anger. It is too soon. Not enough. I am not ready.

*****

I can feel the vertigo of my sadness. Do not let anyone tell you that grief is not a physical process. Our bodies will tell us so many things if we let them.

On some days, I move restlessly from thing to thing, unable to concentrate and unable to finish one thing that I have started. My body is telling me to stop and weep, but I wait until the baby is in bed and then sob on my husbands shoulder, again.

And I know that I am not the authority on this, and that my grief pales to that of so many others. But I will say it anyway. These questions feel especially raw this year, because 8 weeks ago we went to a funeral for my best friends son. He was almost 4 years old.

What if we let the feeling of that sentence come roaring out of our eyes and lungs? What if we were held in the freedom of corporate lament? What if we offered our tears as an act of honest worship before the One who knows and holds all hearts?

*****

Can we talk about the idolatry of safety and happiness for a moment?

I think some of our responses to grief and suffering are because we want to quickly move out of discomfort and get back to something we can explain- like how to be happy.

Some of the most offensive things that people say to those who are grieving are about “goodness” and “hope.” And these things are not offensive because they are not true, they are offensive because human beings sometimes claim that we know exactly what hope and goodness are going to look like in someone else’s life. We claim to be in control. We want to move quickly away from the mysterious things that we don’t understand.

What if our very spirituality, our Christianity, our conforming to the image of God, was wrapped up in our willingness to enter in to the pain of those who are walking in darkness?

*****

I work with people who are dying and I often turn to the explanation of the signs and symptoms of what is happening to my patient’s bodies, rather than sitting with them in the heaviness of the moment. It is more comfortable for me to explain than it is for me to experience.

We have been working at our church in the spiritual guides/spiritual direction ministry. And often, SO often, people tell us about their darkest days and then apologize for having them. Spiritually we have made it bad to have pain, fear, anger and doubt, rather than acknowledging these experiences to be intrinsic to living on this earth.

Sometimes, when people share about grief in our spiritual direction meetings, we sit in silence and then read these verses:

From the book of Romans chapter 8 ~

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. (The Message)


If you have ever seen a woman give birth, then you may have seen the full power of the yearning for deliverance. The labor pains and deep-throated roar of a woman in transition is one of the most Holy things that I have ever experienced. And here we have the visual of the Spirit making prayers of our “aching groans.” This is the kind of God I want with me this year, a God who would join my yelling as I do the work of each contraction (and believe me, I was yelling a lot while I was in labor).


So often, we hear this verse misquoted- Romans 8:28- tied up in a simple bow, “God works all things together for our good.”  And there is no mention of the groaning and waiting. There is no mention of the sobbing of creation and the grief of all of us who are working expectantly towards redemption of the pain that is around us and within us.

*****

It is the season of Advent, the time when the Christian church awaits the Light unto the darkness. It is a time in which we await the redemption that Jesus promised.

I think more and more, during these days, which are darker and darker, of the Jesus who is described in the Gospels. I once thought that Jesus was the guy who walked around doing instant miracles and making people feel happy. Then, when I experienced some of the weight of sadness and disappointment, I found the Jesus who was “a man of sorrows.” This Jesus crept away to pray alone all the time, and we do not know the content of his prayers. Yet, there is one time in the gospels that we are given a glimpse of how he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he was sweating and crying blood.

We are in Advent. We are in waiting for this mysterious messiah. We are in labor; groaning and sweating and swearing.

It is a time in which we must weep.

The prophet Jeremiah said in his lamentations:

When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.


*****


If you need company in your grief this Advent season, I am here. And I also believe deep in my bones, that the Spirit is there with you too… waiting for Hope to appear.

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