Good Grief

I didn’t expect to find myself kneeling and weeping with abandon on the altar this morning, but that’s just where I found myself. God is calling me to be part of worship in two places right now, and that’s not something I understand. I have learned not to question His ways, but sometimes He confounds me. Perhaps He knows I’ll get lost in the confounding and find Him. I love both places and know He is present and alive in both. It’s a rare blessing to find someone willing to speak the truth with love, and both Pastor John and Pastor Jeff do just that. 

The deaths this week, especially Dorothy’s, left me numb. I’ve heard five amazing messages this week, and the message this morning touched me more deeply than I was prepared to be touched. God knew it was time to weep for mama. I put off weeping four years ago. I cried and cried and cried, but I didn’t weep until today. Weeping with abandon in front of others isn’t something I would have chosen to do, and it’s far too personal and intimate to do in from of others, but God knows that weeping together is part of the grieving process. I felt a sense of release on that altar that can only come when I let go of everything and let God and others hear my heart and my hurt.

It isn’t easy to let others hear my heart, but weeping frees the spirit and opens the heart as nothing else. As I watched Pastor Jeff, a big strong man, tear up as he talked of his own journey, the way was wide open for me to do the same. Letting others see our vulnerability opens doors for ourselves and others. Jesus wept openly for Lazarus. He was a very strong man who loved his friend dearly. Perhaps He cried because He knew he was bringing his friend back into a world of pain. Perhaps he cried because he knew Lazarus had suffered and would suffer again at the hands of death. 

Christ gives me hope and is my strong center. That was the beautiful message this morning. God’s grief is good grief because He is my hope, my comfort, my rock, and my redeemer. He never moves or changes, and that is the best news of all. There will always be weeping and loss in this world, but I can walk in God’s kingdom and chose to grieve as He grieves knowing that I can grieve with Him and share my grief and His love with those in my path. I will weep until I am with God in heaven, and I learned today that weeping is a very powerful form of prayer. That changes my journey in a most beautiful way. That’s good grief, and I thank God for showing me the difference between the world’s way of grieving and His.

The Company One Keeps

“Judged by the Company One Keeps” has been a favorite poem since a friend shared it with me decades ago. I would recite it to my middle school classes because they could relate, not to the drinking but to the fact that all is not as it appears to be. I agree, and the poem always reminds me to be cautious when judging. Here’s the poem:

Judged by the Company One Keeps
by Unknown
Frequently attributed to Benjamin Hapgood Burt.
  

One night in late October,
When I was far from sober,
Returning with my load with manly pride,
My poor feet began to stutter,
So I lay down in the gutter,
And a pig came near and lay down by my side;
Then we sang “It’s all fair weather when good fellows get together”,

Till a lady passing by was heard to say:
“You can tell a man who boozes,
By the company he chooses”,
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.

My students loved the poem for the same reason I do; there is a ring of truth to the simple, silly lines. So often, the one who seems so good and innocent isn’t who they appear to be. That’s true in middle school, and it’s true as long as we live. God placed the poem in my path this morning to teach a lesson and bring a smile because He knew I needed both after a frustrating evening.

Judging isn’t my job, and God makes that very clear on many occasions as He lays out His plans throughout His beautiful word. It’s the only sin that comes with a disclaimer. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1 NASB The ten commandments do not carry such warnings, and I believe it is because judging falls into a special category when it comes to sin. Ranking sins involves judgment that hurts God’s work. Judging is playing God, and that is best not done.

I justify judging by saying things like, “They’ve hurt me before, so I know they’ll do it again.” That sounds reasonable and gives solid ground to my claim to pass judgment. If I am to love my enemies and those who hurt me, I must also give up the right to judge them along with the right to retaliate. Judgment and retaliation go together, and that was made clear to me as God taught a tough lesson in love, forgiveness, and the importance of non judgment when it comes to living peacefully, walking in His kingdom, and being the loving witness He so desires for me to be. Fear is at the heart of judgment and will keep me from doing His will if I become its victim. Sometimes, I need to slowly walk away and not worry if others do not understand.

Some lessons pull the rug out from under me, but they leave me flat on my face, humble, and ready to pray. There are advantages to being a slow learner:) Being still and being quiet are two skills I have yet to master, but God knows how to get and hold my attention in a way that helps me see things from His prospective. I see His point much better when face down, and it’s also much easier to be still and quiet in that position.

So far, the sixties have been a challenge. I’m hoping that, like March, they will go out like a lamb as they’ve certainly come in like a lion!!