Blessed Are Those Who Mourn - Really

"Blessed are those who mourn." These six simple syllables seem to stand up straight off the page and the letters--they have their hands raised--and they are begging for my attention.

I'm in mourning, and for the first time in my life, these are not benign words of hope that should be written in pastel letters on a religious bereavement card. But they're alive, they're active, they're audacious and bold....

My blood begins to boil at the outrage of these words. I think of war-torn streets or a mother burying her child. I think of parents dying and leaving their babies too early. How could Jesus say that there is any sort of blessing in this emotional upheaval? How could Jesus call that person who has aching grief seeping into her joints until she's paralyzed with exhaustion, blessed? ...

I am having a difficult time sitting up straight. My body longs for sleep, almost around the clock. I do drift off, for long hours, and yet I wake up needing even more. I'm ready for my father's eventual death. I'm sure that I am, but the sadness, grief, and mourning--they're just so complicated--and on this day when the cacophony of feelings arise, I'm sorting through them and reading how Jesus seems to be saying to me, "You are blessed."...

Perhaps we can't even understand these words until we become poor or meek or contrite. Perhaps we don't know what they mean until our stomachs ache with a roaring hunger and our tongues stick to the roof of our mouths with thirst. Maybe, maybe we cannot understand the words when we feel the most blest. Perhaps they only make sense to us when we hit rock-bottom. When we're so ashamed of what we did the night before that our lips tremble. When we are about to lose the home we are raising our children in. When we finally realize that we have no control over our addiction. When we are in such mourning, that we stare at the ground as we walk and we cannot look up.

Could it be that there is some sort of favor, some sort of protection that comes, even in this loss? Could it be that there is something good in the anguish and grief in the valley of the shadow of death?...

We don't like this. We don't walk through the valley of the shadow of death in our culture. We like to run through it quickly. We use Kubler Ross' steps of grief as hurdles that we can bound over if we run fast enough, and people ask us why we haven't "gotten over it yet." I don't think we've take the time to stop, to appreciate the blessings of our mourning.

But they are there. They are there with the widow who sits in the Lazyboy where her husband used to relax, just so she can remember the sweetness of his presence. The blessings are there, when we are sorting through clothes, and we suddenly are enveloped with a waft of perfume that reminds us of Christmas with our mom. When the walls of our home seem to be haunted with our lover and we don't ever want to leave. The blessings are there in the facts that the ways in which we hurt each other seem to fade, and the resentment is replaced with understanding. The blessings are there, as we defrost the homemade casseroles that the church-ladies delivered. And they are there, as we eat fried chicken and tell each other stories until our sides ache with laughter as well as pain.

These words. They have traveled a long a way to greet me today, in my bitter, angry grief. And yet, somehow, they have never been so comforting. And I know that I am blessed.

- Carol Howard Meritt,"Blessed Are Those Who Mourn," sermon on Day1.org, January 30, 2011

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