Well, all three of you will probably be surprised that I’m putting up something else so soon… But I thought, what the hey. I had to get this done for today, and I thought I would share w/ you a few of the random thoughts (especially for those of you who don’t get my snail mail letters…) Sorry it’s so long… I like to call it “the beast.” Enjoy.
Dear friends and family,
You can tell winter is approaching here in Rio – the sun sets earlier (around 5:00), the rains dwindle, and the temperature cools. All in all, it’s a nice change. But in many ways I feel that a winter has been drawing near to my heart as well. This last week was especially painful – death was present in both our memories and in our day-to-day lives. Yet in the dark times, I have been clinging to the above verse. I don’t see it yet, but I trust in our God who has promised us that those who mourn will be comforted. But how long must we wait?
I spent a couple hours on Mother’s Day down in Lapa with the street kids. It was a painful time for all of us as we remembered our mothers. I heard many stories of the ways their mothers had let them down, failed them, ignored them, or abandoned them. Some still loved their mothers. Others wanted nothing to do with theirs. I wept with one friend as we remembered our moms, and were missing them especially on Mother’s Day. They died years ago, but the wounds still ache. As we sat under the arches and the tears flowed, another kid patted us reassuringly on the shoulder as he walked by and murmured “It’s hard to lose a mom, isn’t it?” And so we mourn.
That same day we found out that Thiago (one of the Lapa kids) had passed away the night before when he used too much of an inhalant called lolô, fell down on the sidewalk, hit his head, and bled to death. He was 17. We went to his funeral the next morning, and it was a sad affair. I didn’t know Thiago very well. I didn’t know his heart, so it was difficult to try and speak words of comfort to his mother, his family. Our presence, an arm to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, and a few heartfelt prayers were all we had to give. Yet though I didn’t know him well, I do trust in our Heavenly Father – in His infinite compassion and mercy, as well as His infinite justice. And we continue to mourn.
In many ways, the kids in Lapa are hardened – they have to be to survive. Yet they too mourn the loss of their friend Thiago. They too suffer, and I have been privileged to see into their hearts. They let me share their pain with them, and that is a precious, priceless gift. In the aftermath, as I reflected more on suffering, on mourning, and on the pain that exists in so many lives, I stumbled across Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff. It is a series of profound reflections on suffering and love, written after his son died in a mountain climbing accident.
One of his most moving passages focuses on the beatitude – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” His response – “Who then are the mourners? The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence.”
Those who mourn are the ones who realize that when the Kingdom of peace and wholeness comes, there will be no hunger, no sickness, no brokenness, no injustice, no fear, and no death. However, this present world is full of such things. Those who mourn see things as they are and ache – they see the hungry, the sick, the broken, people suffering injustices, people who are afraid and dying. As they see, their hearts break and they are moved to tears because these things should not be! In this way, our mourning and our weeping are acts of prophetic criticism, proclaiming not only the sad reality that exists today. Each tear also proclaims what may be, what should be, what one day will be. And the words of Jesus tell us that as we mourn, we will be held in the arms of the God who suffers with us.
Wolterstorff goes on – “The mourners are aching visionaries. Such people Jesus blesses… and he gives them the promise that the new day for whose absence they ache will come. They will be comforted… Jesus says: Be open to the wounds of the world. Mourn humanity’s mourning, weep over humanity’s weeping, be wounded by humanity’s wounds, be in agony over humanity’s agony. But do so in good cheer that a day of peace is coming.”
When the Kingdom of God comes in fullness, we will then see face to face. We will see Life redeemed as it was meant to be. Until that day, however, our tears are our witness. God’s children die every day. In that day, they will die no more. His daughters are used and abused. In that day, they will be cherished. His sons are crushed and thrown away. In that day, they will be honored. The poor are exploited and ruined. In that day, they will be lifted up. The image of God in His beloved children is consigned to the rubbish heap. In that day, they will be seated with the princes and princesses. Therefore we mourn, but not as those who have no hope.
I wept for my family as my mom died. I weep for Thiago, making his home on the street as he destroys his mind and body. I weep for Christian, growing up thinking it is normal to sleep outside. The street – with its noise, dirt, drugs, broken glass and broken lives – is his playground and sanctuary. I weep for Kaiwan, facing a bleak and uncertain future as violent men with guns occasionally invade his neighborhood. I weep as innocence is stolen, families are broken, hope is destroyed, and love grows cold. Faced with the cold, bleak reality of sin, injustice, and brokenness, we often feel helpless. Our hearts break. We cry, we weep, we mourn. Yet as we mourn, our tears do not lead us to despair, for our tears are mixed with faith, hope, courage, and love. “One day…” they whisper to us. Our tears are our prayer. And our Father whispers back – “In that day, I will make all things new… Come work with me. Trust me.”
So we mourn, and yet we hope. We sacrifice and sing. We labor and love. We cry and we move forward in resolve that the broken hearts and lives will one day be made whole. Not yet, but one day – one day soon… For He is able, and He is faithful. And after the last tear falls, there is Love… Amen.
Thank you for standing with me. Thank you for your love and support.
PS – One or two quick business things for those who want to keep in touch better (or want me to keep in better touch w/ them.) For those who are interested I am now sending out a regular prayer update email. Let me know if you want in the loop.