Weep, Laugh; Mourn, Dance

…A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… Ecclesiastes 3:4.

In all of the instructions in Scripture this is one of the most practical for it takes into account the realities of living earthbound.  The Stoics thought emotions a product evil—or at the very least, less than what perfection demanded—and much of that attitude crept into the Christian faith insidiously through the study of Greek philosophy.  To conquer the emotional life meant a certain sense superiority over the passions that drive us to make bad decisions, which then result in unhappiness.  This wasn’t expressed overtly but seemed to be byproduct of the practice.

Those who believe in any extreme of the psyche of the human experience miss out on the other senses which are denied for the sake of the one.  I know those who preach a view of love which excludes boundaries for human behavior in such subjects as sexual preference, raising children and host of other social and spiritual matters.  It’s funny that I, too, struggle to understand where the line is drawn on many of these issues sometimes.

Jesus told us if we were to be like God, we must love even our enemies, but that instruction seems ignore the Scriptures (several in the Psalms) which tell us God hates evil doers.  This is one of those contradictions detractors of the authenticity and accuracy of the Scriptures like to bring up in conversations and a myriad of books on the subject.  The “difference” between the NT and OT god(s), in their opinions, is stark in its contrast.  The god of the OT judged, destroyed and gave no quarter; the god of the NT went out of His way to redeem the sinner.

Unfortunately for those detractors they have their “p’s” mixed up with their “q’s” for in many, many places throughout the OT God pronounces His desire to have mercy not condemnation, redemption instead of punishment.  Ezekiel  has 4 places where God declares,  “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked…” which flies in the face of those who would almost gleefully watch the world burn for their sins.  Psalms 103:8-14 makes it clear that God’s baseline is grace, mercy, forgiveness and a desire to redeem.  It’s almost laughable when people read the Bible without taking the context of it into account.  It’s like there’s something broken in their reading glasses that prevents them from seeing the continuity of God’s involvement with and desire to redeem humanity.  If it weren’t so sad, it might be funny, but I find it devastatingly sickening.

Ok, I get it, spiritual things are spiritually discerned and the carnal man cannot understand them.  In fact they can’t even get a handle on them.  I watch those who begin to buy into the secular academia’s take on biblical history and what it all means drift slowly to the edge of the stream into near wholesale disbelief or agnosticism.  Oh, many of these theologians and “apologists” continue to claim a belief or faith in Jesus, but they undermine the very foundation of the gospels at the same time.  They pick the parts of the message they like claiming this is the “real” Christ, while throwing out the parts they don’t as later additions.

What’s funny to me (meaning I see a black humorous side to this) is that if anyone destroys the authority of the gospel records at one point, they have cast doubt on the whole story.  To claim that over half of the NT writings are later additions by those who didn’t like the freedom of the early church just shows how eager people are to find loopholes in the rules.

What does this say about our subject above?

Simply this:  Emotions are not evil rather it’s what we do with them that determines into which category they fall.

There is a time to mourn; a time to weep.  God has made everything perfect in its time, a place for every action under the sun.  We are the ones who twist and pervert the way these things are expressed, not Him.  The fact that we mourn to excess and use it as a means of checking out of life has nothing to do with healthy sorrow.  The reverse is also true, though, because many times we think that sorrow is a sign of weakness or lack of faith in God’s promise of eternal life.  As if we should not mourn the loss of a child or weep at the sight of injustice.

When my wife left, one of my pastors said,  “Give yourself permission to grieve, Jon.”  I did.  Mom died 5 months before my wife left the first time, on our one year anniversary.  Dad died a year and a half before that.  Approximately a year before Dad passed away my brother’s business tanked and things were in disarray for quite a while.  I took that advice and gave myself two years to mourn the losses.  Mourning isn’t just about weeping, it’s also about honoring the memory of someone who’s died, reassessing one’s choices, processing the losses and making peace with the past.

Two years to the day my wife moved out, November 29, I woke up clear.  I can’t explain what it felt like exactly except to say that I sensed the weight was gone, my inner vision clear and the oppressive nature of the sadness lifted.  Arriving at this state didn’t mean the work of recovery was all done but that the initial pain subsided and I was able to breathe again.

In biblical times mourning was given a set time to be expressed, beyond which was considered excess or simply the depth of a sorrow.  I have a friend, Holly, who lost her husband a couple of years ago and she is still mourning his loss.  They were definitely a team who supported one another’s aspirations and dreams as well as lovers.  I celebrate her state of mourning as right and wish everyone who goes through such traumatic stuff in their lives could do the same.

While weeping is a form of mourning, it is more than just the tears.  Weeping can be for the moment, while mourning is a state of mind which goes beyond tears into an overriding sadness.  I think nervous breakdowns act as a form of mourning.  Tears release the initial sadness, hurt, anger or frustration which might build up over time.  Mom always encourage my brother and me to express our tears, saying,  “A real man cries when it hurts; cowards hold it in!”  I’ve learned the truth of that over the years.  The truth is mourning declares the tragic nature of a loss or circumstance which cannot be resolved by human means.  It also allows us the time to feel the pain, work through the emptiness and deal with whatever has gone wrong instead of living in denial.

God, through His word, gives us not only permission to experience these emotions but encouragement to practice them.

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4 Responses to “Weep, Laugh; Mourn, Dance”

  1. Ula Says:

    This is a beautiful post Jonny. Thank you! It’s amazing how your emotions came through in a post that addresses the dangers of either extreme concerning emotions. They shine through in a beautiful spiritual way that is honoring of God. I am really sorry to hear that you have had to deal with so much pain, though.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    As Wesley said to Buttercup (in the Princess Bride), “Life is pain, Highness, anyone who tells you differently is selling something!”

  3. tlc4women Says:

    I like how you defined the timing. Different for everyone but set nevertheless.

    I also can’t explain the clarity once the grief lifts, but know the feeling of being free(er) from it.

    • jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

      Only those who have experienced grief in its overwhelming magnitude can understand the feeling of release both in its expression and the closure.

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