blessings for the broken part four

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. . .
When did we buy the lie that happiness is the means to happiness?
That what feels good is right and what is painful is wrong?
Hungry is not comfort. Thirsty is not pleasure.

We are at a crossroads.

Poor and powerless. Grief-stricken. Broken.

In any direction, as far as we can see, the landscape is exactly the same. Dry, dusty, barren, flat.

Nothing distinguishes one path from another.

Turning around seems like the smartest decision.

Going back by a way we know.

Going back to what? We’ve come too far.

It doesn’t matter which path we choose now.

They are all marked suffering.

* * * * *

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. . .

When did we buy the lie that happiness is the means to happiness?

That what feels good is right and what is painful is wrong?

Hungry is not comfort.

Thirsty is not pleasure.

It’s true in our physical being. And true in our spiritual being as well.

If we fill ourselves with real food, we’ll crave more good and be filled. If we fill ourselves with junk food, we only want more — more junk, more anything — just more.

The bad takes away our appetite for good. The bad takes us on a high and abandons us to crash. Snickers does not satisfy.

But we try.

And we keep trying. Over and over.

The cake when we’re stressed. The gossip when we’re hurt. The computer when we’re lonely. The money when we’re rejected. The applause when we’re insecure. The rage when we have no voice. The drugs when we can’t face the day. The busy so we don’t have time to notice . . .

The goal of all this stuffing life full is to be unconscious of our thirst. Hunger hurts, so we have numbed it. We numb it until we don’t feel longing anymore.

* * * * *

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.

Jesus at the well. A woman, draws water for herself. Jesus asks for some. She recognizes him as a Jew. She is a Samaritan. Jews do not associate with Samaritans. She objects.

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. (John 4)

She wants this. Never to thirst again. Never to take a weary walk to a well in the heat. Never to carry heavy jars home and watch them empty fast.

Go, call your husband and come back.

Wait. What? I don’t have a husband, she says.

You are right. He says. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.

Uh. Wow. We were just talking about water.

No. We were talking about what you crave. You thirst for fulfillment. And you haven’t found it. Given up yet?

* * * * *

We have come to this crossroads.

The cake has made us fat. The gossip has gone too far. The busy has given us an ulcer. The virtual relationship led us to unfaithfulness. The money is gone. The applause has faded. In rage we have beaten others, ourselves. The drugs have destroyed our life.

Now it’s no longer possible to numb. To deny. To excuse.

We can go back to numbing.

Or we can choose to feel the pain and hurt and ache and longing and let it be what it is.

We can choose to accept our hunger and thirst.

* * * * *

So what is this righteousness?

What is this thing that I seek first instead of clothes, comfort, food, money, success?

The people gathered around Jesus on the mountain want to know, too.

They are hungry. They are thirsty.

And Jesus tells them their hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.

They don’t get it either — unless they are the poor in spirit, unless they mourn, unless they are meek.

Righteousness isn’t about not doing or doing. It’s about Jesus Himself.

We will not know how He satisfies until we admit we are not satisfied by anything else.Until we drag our poor, powerless, broken selves through the desert of suffering to the Well instead of going back.

My soul yearns, even faints for the court of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2

As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after thee. Psalm 42:1

In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Blaise Pascal

“Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” St. Augustine

blessings for the broken part three

The endless gray sky feels forever like 11 o’clock in the morning . . .
no sun to guide and you must check your watch to remind you of the passing of the hours.

Night ebbs slow. Day is a fading in and out of light. Artless.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. — Matthew 5:5

The endless gray sky feels forever like 11 o’clock in the morning . . . no sun to guide and you must check your watch to remind you of the passing of the hours.

Night ebbs slow. Day is a fading in and out of light. Artless.

I feel it in the heavy winter gloom. I see it in faces. Touch it in names. And it’s there on bitter pages. The year I was angry with God.

I’ve come upon it unexpectedly again in the third beatitude. Blessed are the meek.

Stretch out my life, and pick the seams out*

In the weeks our life was coming apart, another family in our church was walking through the worst trial I could imagine. Far worse than mine.

Their four year old daughter had had another in a series of surgeries to repair her heart. Her recovery was long and tenuous.

They graciously shared their home with us when we lost ours. In their home, walls covered with their faces, my prayers intensified for this beautiful family. Prayers for us. Prayers for them. Prayers for healing. For her. For Dave. I forgot myself when I prayed for her . . .

On a blinding, bright, bitterly cold January day, I walked along with the crowd from the church to the cemetery. As they released pink balloons to the blue sky, her bless-ed parents became saints to me.

But my tears became questions. If God could allow the worst to happen to them, I was not immune. The worst could happen to me, too. My story was not guaranteed a happy ending. Dave could go back to drugs at any time. I really might never trust him again. We actually might get a divorce. We may always be destitute. Our life really has been destroyed.

I began to doubt things I had believed all my life. “Plans to prosper not to harm” — oh really? Burdens piled on. Homelessness. Poverty. Social Services. And underneath all flowed uncertainty.

Issues with Dave’s former employer became daily aggravations. It seemed so unfair that they should place any burden on me. Summer days passed in a cubicle instead of at home with my kids as I had done all their lives.

My dearest sister struggled against cancer. I could barely breathe prayers for her. My chest ached morning to night. I was afraid to trust God with her. And she was a thousand miles away.

Bitterness shot out roots . . .

Months of my life burned at the edges with fear. I painted myself with a tough coat of anger to hold back the pain. I was anything but accepting of God’s will.

* * * * *

I composed this post over the past week and was reluctant to post today as I had planned. Because injustice strives so hard for control.

This morning, I feel the stretching as two-years of tearing the fabric of so many lives threatens to tear longer and deeper.

This morning, the Pope’s words of resignation resonate with the ache in my own heart.

The fight wears on you . . .

The meek shall inherit the land

Jesus’ blessing for the meek invokes scenes vivid in my mind. . .

Cain, in a murderous jealous rage against his brother. God speaks to him: sin is crouching at the door, it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.* 

I wonder if Moses had heard those very words himself before bitterness overtook him at Meribah and he struck the uncooperative rock in a display of anger.

Moses had done so much good and had obeyed so much. It seems so unfair that he should not be allowed to go into the  Promised Land.

. . . Moses had been to this place of testing before. The people were thirsty. They doubted. Would a loving God lead them to the desert to die?

I feel near that place again, too. And I want to smack that rock with every fiber of my being.

It takes conscious choice to submit my life to Christ’s care and  control. 

Meek is not about quiet. Or reserved. Or shy. Or weak. Meek is accepting God’s dealings with us as good. Meek requires the wisdom to know when the fight isn’t yours.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:8-9

blessings for the broken, part two

We used to wear our grief.
Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .
To show loss.
To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.
Appearance had meaning.

We used to wear our grief. 

Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .

To show loss.

To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.

Appearance had meaning.

We treated mourners with respect. Spoke differently around them. Guarded our conversation to avoid heaping sorrow on complete strangers.

I wonder why we stopped. Why long, visible mourning has gone out of fashion. . .

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said.

In every version of the Bible, the English word, translated from Greek, is mourn. 

Grief manifested; too deep for concealment. Often . . . to weep audibly.

(Now we cover. Allow ourselves acceptable sorrow, but keep calm and carry on. Mourning is for poets. Wailing is for pagans.)

But Jesus spoke the Beatitudes to people who bore grief visibly. No makeup or drops to hide weary eyes. Faces revealed hearts. Clothes told stories.

I think, even then, mourning had lost something.

Because they used to show real grief over sin by putting on sackcloth and ashes.

In ancient times, recorded in the Old Testament, garments were torn by the grieving. Rough, dark, shapeless clothes replaced them. Ashes on heads. Ashes in which to sit.

Ashes, the remnants of sacrifice. A symbol of sorrow. A sign of humility. Of desperation. Ashes to cleanse. Israel, David, Nineveh . . .

Public displays of repentance had become a show for Pharisees. See how religious I am?

* * * * *

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.” 2 Corinthians 7:10a

God knows when mourning of wrongs is just for show.

Sometimes we know, too. Or sense it.

Because addicts repent a million times. This is the last time. I’ll never do it again. And yet they do . . . and we cannot make them be sorry to the point of change. Preaching at and pleading with cannot induce real repentance.

And we are the same. We who believe we are free from destructive vices.

We repent when we are caught. In gossip. In aggression. In spending money we don’t have.  . . and at once we are consumed with self. With how can I get out of this and still save face. . .

. . . Books of mourning sit beside me on a shelf. Spiral bound pages, words poured out in tears. Sleepless nights, hollow-eyed days. Bitterness and belief intertwined. Pride shredded until I thought I had none left, but I was wrong.

Mourning isn’t pretty. Mourning feels like dying.

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Jesus says.

It seems He is speaking of comforting those who have suffered tragic loss. Of wiping away every tear from our eyes.

Comfort — this one word in English means so many things in Greek. Parakaleō: to call to one’s side, to summon, to console, to admonish, to encourage, to teach. I recognize it from Bible school. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit . . .

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. John 14:16

* * * * *

Mourning and comfort. Both are process. Neither can be rushed. Sowing tears and reaping joy takes time.

Comfort ye my people, God told Isaiah. And it was more than 400 years before the Comforter came . . .

Blessed are those who are broken. Who grieve deeply over their wrongs. Who feel trapped and helpless in their chemically dependent body and throw themselves at the feet of Jesus, begging for healing.

Blessed are those who are broken. Who are exhausted from trying to fix the broken people they love. Who are afraid if they stop, no one will pick up the pieces. Who grieve over the pride that keeps joy hostage.

Blessed because they receive power greater than themselves.

* * * * *

There are hidden places where grief is still worn. 

Where masks of I am fine are set aside, confessions are made, and encouragement is given. Where tears of sorrow flow freely, waiting for the Comforter to wipe them away. Some stay months, others stay years.

We confess aloud that there is a Power greater than ourselves.* 

That God exists,

that I matter to Him, and

that He has the power to help me give up addiction, pride, control . . . whatever has broken me.  * 

* * * * *

A little more about mourning and comfort: Psalm 30, Isaiah 61, Lamentations, Shattered Dreams, A Tale of Three Kings, A Grief Observed

* * * * *