Wednesday March 3 – Day 15 – MOURNING
Wednesday March 3 – Day 15 – MOURNING
“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
“‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 (NIV)
Time to take one last look at Joel 2:12-14 (NKJV):
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
Our third facet of this call of turning to the Lord is deeply connected with weeping: mourning. The Bible has many stories of those who have lost and mourning was an important aspect of the rituals of life. It was essential in order to continue living. In our culture, we tend to downplay grief and mourning and even go to great lengths to ignore it. For those who have experienced great loss, the process of mourning is essential to heal. Seven years would commonly be referred to as the period of mourning for someone you loved, and then you would continue life fully again.
In my life I have had to say goodbye to too many people. The deepest losses have been my Mum and my sister, Debbie. For both of these losses, I did seem to take a period of mourning that lasted for a period of time. For my Mum, I tried to simply soldier on which in the end caused me more emotional problems. For many many nights after she died, I would uncontrollably sob as silently as I could before I fell asleep. I mourned her death but I kept trying to fast track what I needed to do to get back to “normal life”.
The birth of my daughter 4 years after my Mum’s death became a great turning point to end my period of mourning. In fact, my daughter continues to remind me of my Mum in so many ways that she is a daily reminder and comfort to me. When Emma was little, she would hum and sing just like my Mum would when I was growing up. Emma is now studying to be a nurse and following in the majority of the women of our family (my Mum, my mother-in-law and my wife).
When my sister Debbie died, it was different. It was still a tragic and unexpected death but I was never fully able to come to grips with the manner in which she died. The night before her celebration of life, I was in the old cathedral on James and Jackson rehearsing a song for the event. It was one of her most favourite songs by one of her favourite artists: “Mail Order Annie” by Harry Chapin. As I was rehearsing there was something that happened that I will never forget and to this day moves me whenever I think of it.
As I rehearsed in the empty cavernous building trying to get the melody and phrasing right, I would break down at one of the peak lines of the song “Mail Order Annie, let’s you and me go home…”. Not only was it at the highest notes in the entire melody, it was the loudest moment in the song as well – the true climax.
EACH time I would try and sing it, I would begin to weep uncontrollably.
Now, the thing I have not shared with you is that this was all happening during a rain storm which, when I arrived at James Street, was a very light rain shower.
As I would try and reach the climax of the song, the tears would flow.
But then at the third time, something incredible happened.
The rain kept intensifying as I sang this song. When I tried unsuccessfully to hit the right notes and continued to sob, knowing that my sister had gone Home to be with Jesus, the rain was coming down at an incredible rate. As I looked to my left of the North Transept, I saw the stained glass windows FULLY closed, but water began to stream inside the church through the glass windows.
As the water flowed down the stained glass, which I had never seen before in the 8 years that I had worked there as well as the 13 years we had been attending James Street, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The windows were closed and locked, and yet water was coming in through them. I was starting to get nervous that maybe the church was going to begin flooding. It began to stream in at an alarming rate and unbelievably, ALL OF THE WINDOWS WERE COMPLETELY CLOSED AND LOCKED.
It was as if God was weeping with me, reminding me I was not alone, and the building was weeping WITH me during my time of mourning.
After I realized the water was not going to flood the sanctuary, the streams of water began to comfort me. In the end, I was finally able to sing the song for her as best I could the next day during her celebration of life. My one wish is that I would have performed the song for her when she was alive, as opposed to after her death. She would have loved it, and no doubt, the tears would have been flowing for both of us.
As I edit this particular devotion, one of my dear friends Steve Parton is in the beautiful mile of his life. In my song “Beautiful Mile”, I speak of that journey that we will all take at the end of this earthly life. My hope when I travel my beautiful mile is that I will be surrounded by those I love and that I am not alone. I want to go from seeing the faces of those I love on this earth to seeing God on that mile from earth to Heaven. My friend Steve is a musician friend that I have worked with on various shows and he has been battling cancer for many many years. I have never seen someone who had embraced his diagnosis and fought so hard to stay alive for his children and for the love of his life, Isabel. Many tributes have been coming in on social media, and I have yet to fully get my thoughts down on paper. I am already mourning the loss of my friend that I will no longer be able to share a stage with, or be able to ask him to give me late night feedback on song lyrics I have written via social media (which I did when I wrote some lyrics the night we heard Tom Petty was dying – the song will eventually be on the next pop record of mine).
Last summer I was so thrilled when he performed at our Gracenotes Summer Music Festival and recorded some amazing performances for the online show. No matter what he experienced, no matter what pain he was dealing with, he lived his life as a believer of Jesus making the most of every minute. I am already mourning his loss and as I write this finding it difficult to hold back the tears. However, I no longer need to hold them in because it is right and good for me to mourn my friend, to grieve his leaving and ache for his children and his wife. It is good to show the world that my friend is walking this beautiful mile and that I mourn for him. It is good for me to get angry at the thought of his family being without him and how unfair this all is. The tears will flow, and I will remember my friend through our shared memories together.
It is so crucial that we embrace the concept of mourning not only for loved ones, but for our sinful broken existence without Jesus.
We need to mourn the pain we have caused God when we turn to Him.
When we look at God calling us to mourn as we turn to Him, the truth in this call is this: God requires a true and authentic heart response from us. Just as we mourn the loss of those whom we love, we need to mourn our loss of a relationship with the living God when we have turned away from Him. We ask for forgiveness and God accepts our genuine “turn away” from our old selves and towards Jesus. The mourning may include weeping, feelings of anger and guilt, regret, and a desire that we could turn the clock back on our actions.
If Jesus is to mean anything to us, He has to mean EVERYTHING to us.
As we recognize who we are without God, we mourn. As our hearts turn towards him, the morning comes and it is filled with joy. And in the morning, God will wipe every tear from our eye, after weeping with us, and joy will fill our hearts.
Remember, the joy is worth it all.
May we all remember on this day in Lent that Jesus died so He could complete the old order. He rose again so that we would all be saved. There would be no more need for another sacrifice or separation from him after this life. Today, celebrate the joy you have in your hearts, which is Divinely given. Breathe, smile, run and dance. Worship the living God in song and may your joy infect your world and all you come into contact with.
The joy is worth it all.