The Arabs have a proverb: “All sunshine makes a desert.” I’m leaving the desert today, crying under cloud cover, staring intently at the rain, feeling every drop.
I don’t want to but I have to. I’m writing this book on eight blessings spoken by Jesus called the beatitudes. Each beatitude or blessing builds on the one before it so I should probably write about each in order. The problem is I’m more passionate about some than others.
”Blessed are the peace makers.” I like that one. It’s possibly counter-cultural and the debate over what it means makes for some fascinating study. The reasons why it’s meaning has been changed over the centuries is even more fascinating.
”Blessed are the pure in heart.” My second favorite I think. I get to quote Kierkegaard and talk about “repent” meaning a shift in allegiance. I like seeing old words in a new light.
”Blessed are the merciful.” Action oriented. See a need. Meet a need. Straight forward. Easy to to understand and there are loads of stories to tell about the merciful in my own life. I get to celebrate niceness. I love this chapter.
But “Blessed are those who mourn?” I’ve skipped this one so far.
Oh, I’ve studied it. I think I grasp what it means. I just don’t like writing about it.
The Greek word for “mourn” here is the strongest word for grief there was in the language. It’s the word used when a mother loses a child, a husband grieves his wife. It’s the word used in the Greek version of the Old Testament when Joseph’s father Jacob weeps thinking his favorite son has been killed (Genesis 37:34). Here in this beatitude though – the majority view throughout history has been – Jesus wants us to mourn “sin,” to mourn the death of our innocence, the way we’d mourn the passing of someone we love. Our innocence has been buried. We stand around its tomb and mourn.
A smart guy once wrote that this beatitude is for those “whose hearts are broken for the world’s suffering and for their own sin.” Everything is busted – you, me, the oceans, the air, motivations, cells, economies, everything – and when we see the debris we’re supposed to remember the cause of it all, the couple in the Garden, the snake in the tree, the Father waving good bye to his kids, and we’re to mourn. We’re to realize that no one is more busted than the next. I’m no less busted than the next.
And this realization, this grief, is where the leg my favorite beatitudes stand on. I can’t love my enemy until I empathize and recognize my own flaws in him. I’m not likely to take care of evildoers, feed them, pray for them, until I recognize the care God has extended to me in spite of the evil I’ve done. I’m prone to stay committed, pure in heart, to a God who can love someone as messed up as I am. Who else would love me like this, in this condition? It’s hard not to empathize with those in need and do something, anything, to help them when I remember how needy and poor I am inside and how God stooped, put on skin, and filled my belly.
I don’t want to mourn today. But I have to.