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 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

* * * * *

4 thoughts on “blessings for the broken, part two

  1. Comfort is one of the oldest concepts in the Bible. The name Noah comes from a root meaning “to rest,” but is close in sound to the word meaning “to comfort.” This same word is found in both Genesis 5:29 and 24:67. From the beginning, men were looking for a Comforter (from the “seed of the woman,” Gen 3:15). The oldest book in the Bible is Job. Job, in the midst of his trials and without any comfort from his three closest friends, speaks of how he had been a comforter (Job 29:25). Now, however, his suffering has caused him to tune his harp for songs of mourning and his flute for songs of weeping (30:31). In Elihu, Job’s previously silent fourth friend–a younger man, describes Job’s sad condition in 33:19-22. Then, surprisingly, Elihu announces the existence of a gracious mediator who has the ransom price for Job’s life and the power to heal Job’s body, soul, righteousness, and song of joy (33:23-28). The ancient Jews who translated the Hebrew of verse 23 into Aramaic (the Targum of Job) borrowed a Greek word to translate “mediator.” They chose Paraclete! What a Savior and Redeemer we have in Christ (2 Thess 2:16-17)! No wonder He is our Paraclete and Comforter.:

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    1. Dad, I love this comment. The Bible is so beautifully woven together. Everything connected. Always something to discover. No wonder you’ve spent your life studying and teaching it!

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  2. One thing that struck me as strange when we first arrived in Spain in 1974 was how many women wore black. I soon learned that it was a sign of mourning and that according to the closeness of the relationship the length of mourning was decided. With a heart of pride I said to myself, “Well,I wouldn’t wear black because I have the hope of eternal life and death is just a step to heaven for those who believe.” Forward time to 2005. I returned to Spain after spending the last 10 days of my mother’s life with her – days of smiles, tears, laughter and grief. A time I felt I had to be strong for the rest of the family. Then I returned home to Madrid. Rarely do women wear black as a sign of mourning in modern Spain. I walked around my neighborhood in the days and weeks that followed – not wearing black. As I greeted neighbors and friends with a smile and light conversation I thought: “Everyone thinks I’m my normal self and inside I’m grieving for the loss of my Mom.” And I finally understood how much we cover up by not mourning outwardly.

    What you wrote, Deb, was beautiful. I’ll read and reread it. We have many friends and family here in Madrid who are facing serious illness or death and I know what you wrote will be used for comfort. Thank you.

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