Friday, January 4, 2013

Blessed are Mourners: Beatitudes Pt 7

I've been trying for two weeks to write this post. I knew what I wanted to write, but I did not know (the kind of "knowing" that really matters) what this beatitude means. After all, it is the most paradoxical of all the beatitudes. On the surface it makes no sense whatsoever. If a synonym for blessed is "happy," as some translations put it, and mourning is associated with unhappiness, then in some ways Jesus is saying "happy are the unhappy." At the very least, we must admit that Jesus' way of seeing happiness is absolutely different than the common ways that we view it in our culture.

I think part of the insight we need comes from the shortest verse in the Bible: "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). Over what was he weeping? Lazarus' death? The fact that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead? That his followers did not have faith? I've heard all of these reasons and while any of them might be true, I think there is something that lies beneath. He wept at the reality of death itself, not just the fact that there is a death to our physical bodies but that the ways of death pervade our day-to-day routines. He wept because he saw the reality that most people rejoice over the things that are death with a mask.

To mourn is to lament, a life practice which pervades the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jewish people knew what it means to lament, to see reality for what it is and to long for deliverance, to cry out to God for the kingdom to be made manifest. This is not just mourning because we don't get our way or because something does not work out. This is about seeing the truth of the world and lamenting about it.

We need to be introduced to lament as a spiritual discipline. Instead of lamenting, we typically do one of two things. As a primary option, we whine, we complain and we b&$%*. (Please don't be offended by this word. It describes a lot of what I've heard in the church over the years.) Ultimately, instead of lamenting we play the victim.

A second options is usually offered up as the right one. We try to make to make lemonade out lemons. We try to make every day a Friday. We are told to look up when things are looking down. Sadly though, we are actually trying to make things out to be better than they really are. We refuse to enter into the pain of reality, so we do things like make excuses, we work, we laugh, we medicate, we entertain ourselves, we cope. And of course, we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, put a smile on our faces and get back to ministering. We do anything to keep from entering into the pain of reality.

The spiritual practice of lament can shape us to manifest God's life in ways that nothing else can. It causes us to see that we can NOT fix things. It causes us to break the pattern of complaining and whining. It shapes us to depend upon God like little else. Yes lament is painful. It causes us to question everything. It rips us up from the inside in ways that most of our friends cannot and will not ever understand.

However, I'm not sure that there is another way of learning to cry over what God cries about or to laugh about that which God laughs.

How has lament shaped your life with God?


Lerinda Baham said...

Thank you for such refreshing thoughts! Your description of lamenting helps me to put words to a unique spiritual experience I've been unable to explain or understand. I regret this is not something commonly taught in our churches and I will be doing my part to fully understand, practice, and teach the discipline of lament.

Scott Boren said...

Lerinda Glad you found this helpful. If you want some more on lament google Brueggemann and lament

PastorMason said...

This is great stuff Scott! As I thought about what you wrote my mind drifted towards the reward Jesus mentions: They shall be comforted. It's as if God is telling us that unless we can accept the depravity of an external or internal reality, He is limited in His capacity to move. However, if we can gradually and honestly arrive at the end of "our" rope, God will then have a greater ability to reveal Himself as The Comforter.
I am a big proponent of having an excellent attitude, but your perspective on this in light of Jesus words is profound. It is easy to sub-consciously live in denial in the name of positive thinking, but if I can be real with myself God can show Himself real to me.
This post really got me thinking. I could say more but this comment is already too long :) Thanks!

Scott Boren said...

I just realized that I wrote about lament about a year ago based on a quote from Walter Breuggemann. Check out this great quote:

PastorMason said...

That's a powerful quote from Brueggemann!

Greg Flagg said...

"... instead of lamenting we play the victim."

Nailed it. I took a class on the Psalms and we talked a lot about Brueggemann and laments. It was quite eye-opening and introspective in learning how I deal with problems when they come up. The words of the Psalms are equally powerful in the expression of pain and mourning along with praise and adoration of God, and often within a few lines of each other. I think your two examples point out how we often either choose to wallow in lament which leads to playing the victim or we try and ignore, avoid and paint over the pain so things can get back to "normal" because somewhere along the line the church decided worship had to always be happy. Lament and worship (or disorientation and orientation/reorientation for Bruggemann) are equally important like two opposing weights helping to keep our life in balance.

From The Heart Online said...

I love this definition of Lamenting! "The Jewish people knew what it means to lament, to see reality for what it is and to long for deliverance, to cry out to God for the kingdom to be made manifest."

God has been opening my eyes in recent years to the 'truth of the world', and it's overwhelming! I've taken it to God and cried out, but I'm challenged by this to cry out more intentionally - challenged to "cry out... for the kingdom to be made manifest".

Thank you for the challenge, and for sharing this truth.