"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." - Vincent Van Gogh

Friday, March 29, 2013

Today We Remember...

Today is the day that we focus the death of Jesus.

On this day we sing.... "Were you there when they crucified our Lord?" without singing the rose up from the tomb verse. We don't focus on the Resurrection today  - even though that's part of the story. Today is just set aside to meditate on the death of Christ. In short... today is the day we mourn.

I've become very good at mourning... unfortunately. Waves of deep grief and anguish still wash over me at the most inopportune times like driving my car down the highway and always in bed. When I stop moving and my mind has an open moment, it always goes there... to the dark cave of grief. It's a place that I try so hard to avoid. A reality so black that I can't say there too long, for I fear it will consume me.

The Bible speaks of "mourners"... people who wept with others in the times of their loss. My dad always said that I could be leased out as a professional mourner... and I'm sure he was right.

The moment that the shock wore off just a few hours after my father's death, I thought I would die myself. My heart was racing and my whole body shook violently. My vessel could not contain the deep reality of a loss so severe.

Mourning is part of having emotions, of being alive. Mourning is a process that cannot be circumvented.

Why did Jesus weep when Lazarus died (John 11) even though he knew good and well that he was going to command his wrapped, decaying body out of the grave? Jesus was deeply moved by the pain of death. Perhaps he was even thinking of his own impending doom.

When news of the death of John the Baptist reached Jesus, he took the boat and went off by himself for a while. To grieve... to pray... to feel.

Yes, mourning is real. It hurts, badly. And the pain stays fresh for years... for a lifetime. You never forget, you just learn to adapt to the pain I guess.

I had a talk with my barista in my Boston Starbucks the other day. For over a year, he has been making my coffee. When he asked me sincerely how I was, I could have given him the fine thank you answer but I wanted to be real with him so I shared briefly. And then he shared the details about the death of his father, quite a few years earlier, as if it was yesterday. Death is real and raw and ugly and grief remains in our bones, sometimes hidden, but it's always there. We bear the scars.

Jesus died to abolish death but as long as we live here, the reality of death will affect us all. Loss seems like such a benign word compared to the pain that it serves.

During the final hours of the life of Christ he took into account the pain of those left on the earth without him. He looked down from the cross, through his agony and saw the deep grief of his mother and his buddy James.  His poor mother who birthed and raised him, who loved him with a true mother's heart. "Woman, here is your son" and to the disciple he said "Here is your mother".

He knew his mother was heartbroken, crushed and destroyed by his death. He also knew that she needed more earthly provision and comfort for her days that remained on this earth. He didn't expect her to be stoic and rest on the knowledge that he was God's son and that she knew all along that she couldn't keep him. He didn't expect her little earthly mind to fully grasp the big heavenly things and live with an esoteric sense of comfort.

Jesus could have taken care of those family matters earlier in the week for he knew this day was coming. But he gave us a picture of grief and how to deal with it in that moment of time, highlighted by the fact that it was one of the few words and actions that he took on that cross that day. One of the ways to bring solace to grief is in community, in family. Interacting with others reminds you that you are alive, and pulls you out of the depths of loss.

In the midst of grief, he brought hope, new life, new relationships. This of course is the complete picture of his death, the promise of eternal life in the family of God.

Jesus death cost him. It cost God the father too. He had to watch his beloved son die. He suffered great grief as the drama unfolded, even though he ordained the whole thing. He didn't sit on the throne smiling that day. No, the sky turned black for three hours. Darkness covered the earth. The grief of God made concrete and visible. The earth shook. Rocks broke. Graves opened. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two.

Today we mourn, but not without hope. Because of today we know that some day our grief will end. Some day we will be reunited with our loved ones. Some day we will live in perfect joy with the one who still bears the scars of his death. Someday the sting of death will be gone. Some day....

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