An emotional week...
One friend is spending this Easter weekend at home with his recently widowed mother. Another is off to a distant continent with the goal of returning with two dearly loved daughters in order to reunite them with their mother. Yet another is going to New York where she will take her daughter to try on wedding dresses, even as her daughter fights the ravages of chemotherapy. One sister-friend begins yet another month of searching for a job to support her family, the tenth month of searching. The people of Haiti and Chile continue to dig themselves out from the ruins of two powerful earthquakes. Much closer to home, right here in North Carolina, the ravages of recent tornadoes are being battled. And in the north, as flood waters rise high, hope drains low.
There is much work to be done. Cleaning up. Wiping down. Dusting off hope. Reining in sorrow. And many, many tears to be shed. There is so much suffering. All around us. And among us. And, most of all, within us.
In this week of Easter, the week many refer to as Holy Week, I find myself on the verge of tears quite regularly. Once again, Henri Nouwen's words are exactly on target. This time they come from, Walk with Jesus: Stations of the Cross. In the book, Nouwen writes responses to paintings of Latin American people. In the painting for today, there are several Nicaraguan women weeping. He wrote:
These Nicaraguan women weep over the destruction of their people, their land, and their homes. Their children, whom they nursed and brought up with tenderness and affection, suddenly lie dead before them. Their husbands, with whom they shared life's hardness and beauty, are suddenly taken away to unknown destinations. Their land is ruined, their crops burned, and their houses bombed. And so they weep. Their tears are tears that well up from their innermost being. There are no words, explanation, no arguments, no meaningful reflection. War, violence, murder, and destruction need tears, many tears...
The world would be better with more such tears and fewer answers. They well up from a place beyond bitterness, resentment, and vengefulness. They are shed as an offering of "useless" love, as an expression of solidarity, as a true act of non-violence.
Our world does not mourn much. Even when there are so many reasons to mourn. As wars explode, as people die from violence and starvation, natural disasters and technical failures, as works made by human hands with great skill and devotion are stolen, damaged, or destroyed, and as our planet becomes an increasingly threatened place in the universe, we begin to worry about solutions, but we seldom stop to mourn the loss of what was dear to us.
If we want to mourn for Jesus, we have to mourn for the suffering humanity that Jesus came to heal. If we are truly sad because of the suffering and pain which He suffered, we will include in our sadness all of the men, women, and children who suffer in our present world. If we cry over the death of The Innocent Holy One of Nazareth, our tears must be able to reach the millions of innocents who have suffered over the long history of the human race.
How appropriate on so many levels, and perfectly timed. Just over eighteen months ago, I stood and wept with Nicaraguan women as they told stories of the loss of their loved ones, their homes, and their livelihoods. I have wept for the loss of, the illnesses in, and the poverty of spirit suffered by my own loved ones. And this week, as I think of and pray for those threatened by violence and revenge because of drug use and addiction, as I think of the family members here in Charlotte killed by the husband and father of the family (whose bodies were left to decompose for nearly two weeks in their house) while the ten-year-old daughter went to school anyway, fearing for her life, as I stand in support of a dear friend in prison, and rejoice with the couple whose runaway daughter recently returned home - I am moved to tears again and again.
Usually, I apologize for my crying, my deeply felt emotions. I hate to cause discomfort for the people who see me weep, who have to endure my wet, dripping messiness. I go into another room to blow my nose and wipe my eyes. I smile sheepishly and humbly when people tease me about how easily I cry and tell me to not be such a cry baby. And I plead for forgiveness for their uneasiness with my blubbering.
But the truth, as Nouwen writes, is that I need to stop apologizing for my tears. I need to allow the tears to flow, not only for myself and those that I know, but for all peoples everywhere who are in pain. We need to mourn more, not less. We need to feel the sorrow that is not our own if we expect anyone to feel or share the sorrow that is ours. We need to sit in hospital waiting rooms with the families of the sick and dying. We need to sit in the ruins of fallen homes and schools. We need to hear bombs flying over our heads and our homes and walk past destroyed homes and stores and universities and museums and churches. We need to hear the wailing of bereaved mothers and grieving grandparents. We need to see the caskets of soldiers coming off of planes and out of hearses.
I believe that it is our refusal, our unwillingness to feel the pain of others, to put ourselves in their places, that allows us to condone the hoisting of guns and the dropping of bombs, to blame others for their own misery even if it is not entirely their fault, to refuse to offer assistance to the poor, the homeless, the needy, and to accuse those that do help of condoning laziness or dependence. Our determination not to be bothered with the needs and sorrows of others leads us to anesthetize ourselves with alcohol, drugs, food, television, shopping, anger, and fear-mongering. We yell and scream and taunt and threaten and hit and shoot and kill. Then we refuse to look at what we have wrought. We refuse to acknowledge the damage we have inflicted and continue to inflict on one another in the name of God and the greater good and democracy and freedom of choice and our constitutional rights and and whatever else we cloak ourselves in so that we can sleep at night, comfortably swathed our arrogance and greed and phony self-righteousness.
And, above all, we adamantly refuse to weep.
Yes, it has been an emotional week. I am anxiously awaiting the birth of newly hatched hope and joy that Resurrection morning brings every year, and along with it a determination to dig in my heels and refuse to bow to despair and fear.
I hope and pray and expect and promise that I will never stop weeping.