They wore itchy burlap. Shaved their heads. Tore their robes. And sat in ashes. For days. And weeks.
Universal Biblical signs of sorrow and grief.
We don’t bother blow drying our hair. Stay in our pajamas. Eat ice cream for dinner. And spin sad statuses on Facebook and Twitter.
Such is sorrow and grief in 2012.
I’ve been wearing postmodern first world sackcloth for quite sometime now. These past few weeks have been raw-edged paper cuts to my heart, and I’ve been reduced to a puddle of mangled mess. The tears come with no warning, and it’s safer to sit in solitude than to expose my dirty edges to mean-wellers and back-patters.
I’m just sad.
I’m not hopeless. Or giving up. Or throwing in the marital towel. I’m not depressed about time lapses. Or just now realizing the expanse that tragedy reaches.
I’m just sad.
Because everything is so very broken. And under attack. And Satan is alive and well and ruling this world with the vigor of a whippersnapper with no curfew and his daddy’s credit card.
My young faith once believed that being sad pointed to a lack of hope. That discouragement and grief were evidences of not believing God enough. That somehow these hearts of ours that were created in the image of the Almighty God that clearly grieves over sin and brokenness were not allowed to. That joy meant digging deep and finding spiritual happy places, and if I couldn’t do that, then I was spiritually dysfunctional and handicapped.
I don’t buy it.
After searching the Scriptures and sitting in the Presence for lengths of time with nothing outpouring but my tears, I feel as though I have been granted permission to be sad. And to be grieved. I think it’s Biblical.
Jesus Himself was a griever. The brokenness of our world had to have brought our Christ to His knees more times than is sketched out in the Gospels. It was, afterall, that very grief over the human condition that caused the Father to pack His Only Son’s suitcases for a 33 year trip to save us from ourselves.
Then there was David. If God played favorites, that guy would be it. He cried out to the Father so many times in anguish that I’m almost certain his knees carried permanent bruises from pounding the hard floors of caves and his palace alike, and his eyes must have been bloodshot from teary weariness. David was sad. A lot. (Read the Psalms. All of them if you have time. If you don’t, read 13, 28, & 34 — they’re 3 of my favorites.)
And, then, my main man…Job. Somewhat arrogant, but ever sincere in his grief. He lost absolutely everything except for a whiny wife and 3 know-it-all friends. And what did he do? Tore his robes; shaved his head; wallered around in ashes; cried out to God; maintained his integrity; and worshiped. (Job 1:20; 2:3; 2:8)
Hold the broken pieces of pottery.
And, therein lies the key to it all.
Could it be possible to be sad and mournful and have eyes that can’t blink fast enough to keep the tears from flooding over and still have a heart for worship? Can I possibly cry out in anguish and praise Jesus in the same breath? Can the two marry eachother for a time and it rectify out to be okay in our over-spiritualized brains?
From this broken heart: Yes.
I get it wrong more days than I get it right, but I have found such rest and peace in the midst of the grief since I have allowed myself to do just that: grieve.
I’m not, for even a breath, advocating depression. I’ve walked down that cragged road and stubbed more than my toes on the boulders that litter that path. Depression is a dark and dank place that is spawned from the most cruel places of hell. Depression holds no light and stifles hope. It breeds morbidity and turns all focus inward. If you feel those feelings, get help. Fast. It’s not a place where Jesus would ever want you to be, and the glory of God doesn’t shine there.
No, depression is not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the freedom in Christ to mourn the blasted effects of sin, and to cry out for deliverance and hope for a better time and place.
And to worship.
It may mean that the heaviness of the tears render me helpless on the couch for a week, but that doesn’t have to mean I’m hopeless.
It may mean that, for a time, I forget when to laugh and interject sassy sarcasm, but that doesn’t have to mean I’m crushed in spirit.
It may mean that I’m distracted and disjointed in my conversations, but that doesn’t have to mean that my faith is fractured.
My God is good. And real. And alive. And though I don’t understand His inner workings or the way He can ever work things of tragedy together for good, I’m desperately in love with Him. I’m humbled everyday by His tenderness and gentleness with my very broken self, and I’m so enamored with Him that I will follow Him to the ends of the earth. I will bruise myself more times than I will keep my faith squeaky clean in the process, but, blessed for me, He loves me more for it. And, I know, just as He did for David and Job, and the other beautiful Bible people that worshipfully grieved, He will choose a time to grab my hands and lead me out of the pile of ashes and restore me to a time of prosperity.
I am sad.
My life sucks right now by worldly standards.
I miss having a partner, a husband, a best friend.
I hate that I have to breathe prayers over my children that God will show up in real ways as their Father since their earthly one has failed them.
I’m tired of gossip and hushed stares in my direction.
I’m weary on all fronts.
But I love my Jesus.
So I will sit here. Soaked in ash. And outfitted in burlap sacks.
Drenched to my bones in dirty hope.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…..Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:8,16