In a recent article, Henri Nouwen counsels us to grieve:
“Mourn, my people, mourn. Let your pain rise up in your heart and burst forth in you with sobs and cries. Mourn for the silence that exists between you and your spouse. Mourn for the way you were robbed of your innocence. Mourn for the absence of a soft embrace, an intimate friendship, a life-giving sexuality.”
”Mourn for the abuse of your body, your mind, your heart. Mourn for the bitterness of your children, the indifference of your friends, your colleagues’ hardness of heart. Mourn for those whose hunger for love brought them AIDs, whose desire for freedom brought them to refugee camps, whose hunger for justice brought them to prisons. Cry for the millions who die from lack of food, lack of care, lack of love…
“Don’t think of this as normal, something to be taken for granted, something to accept… Think of it as the dark force of Evil that has penetrated every human heart, every family, every community, every nation, and keeps you imprisoned.”
“Cry for freedom, for salvation, for redemption. Cry loudly and deeply, and trust that your tears will make your eyes see that the Kingdom is close at hand, yes, at your fingertips!” (New Oxford Review, June 1992).
Today we are called to mourn! There are many aspects to this. As Nouwen rightly points out, we must mourn so that we do not accept, as normal, the hell that so often makes up earth. To properly cry is to see injustice, indifference, lack of love and hardness of heart for what they are—evil, living in each of us, in need of redemption.
But this prophetic call to mourn is also the call for us to properly mourn the poverty of our own lives, to stop torturing others with blame, ourselves with self-hatred, and God with unfair expectations because, this side of eternity, we live lives not only of quiet desperation but of chronic disappointment. On this side of eternity, there is for us no such thing as a clear cut pure joy and we need to accept and healthily mourn that fact.
Mourn, my people, mourn—or else you will give in to blame and fill with self-hatred, restlessness and bitterness.
Mourn because your life cannot not be inadequate, that here, in this life, all symphonies remain unfinished, that you cannot help but live in a certain vale of tears.
Mourn because you cannot not disappoint your loved ones—and cannot help but be disappointed by them.
Mourn because you can never live with or love anyone for long without seriously hurting him or her.
Mourn that the good you want to do, you end up not doing and the evil you want to avoid, you end up doing. Mourn the stains in your baptismal robes.
Mourn what might have been, all that you missed out on in life while you were doing something else.
Mourn your restless heart, the fact that no spouse or family or friends can ever take your loneliness away.
Mourn that you are so different from others, that you cannot help but irritate them, anger them and make them impatient with you.
Mourn your lack of gratitude, that you can so easily take what’s most precious for granted, that you can so blindly seize as owed what’s given as a gift, that charity is most difficult with those you most owe it to.
Mourn your lack of prayer, your infinite capacity for distraction and the heartaches and headaches that make you think about everything but God.
Mourn your lack of hope, all the life that’s been crucified in you, all those dead spots that have taken the bounce out of your step, the light out of your eyes and the expectation out of your heart. Mourn that you no longer believe in the resurrection!
There’s a Chinese axiom that says: “After the ecstasy, go do the laundry!” In a culture and a church too full of bitterness, anger and frustrated dreams, we need to properly mourn our losses so that we can hear an important prophetic message: 99 per cent of life is doing the laundry and waiting for the ecstasy—and that’s OK!