TODAY WE WEEP
By Chad West
It’s emptiness in the center of me. My brain is stuck in second gear, and I’m numb. People will tell you that you shouldn’t feel this way; that you shouldn’t mourn. If God is in control, they say, we should always rejoice. I disagree. When there’s a death, it’s okay to mourn. When there’s a loss, it’s okay to weep. It’s not good, but it’s good for you. I think what they mean to say is don’t despair. That’s different. That I agree with.
Despair will keep you on the floor. Despair will convince you that there’s no longer any reason to get up. Despair will take your joy out back and shoot it in the hindbrain. But I know my joy’s not dead. It’s somewhere upstairs, watching old episodes of Quantum Leap, waiting until I’m ready to have a conversation. It’s patiently waiting, flipping through old copies of Boy’s Life and Elle, for me to deal with the hurt. Mourning is mentally working through loss; getting used to a world without the thing you had or wanted. It’s a form of rest, and it’s preparation.
Stop telling us not to mourn.
Mourning is self-care. I need some self-care these days. I’ve been running, and dieting, but maybe today I need a shake and some burgers. (that’s right, I said ‘burgers’ with an ‘s’). I need to surround myself with love and humor. But most of all, I need to feel something. (Not run from it; not pretend it’s not there.) I need to accept that something bad is happening in my brain and deal with it. Deal with it until every scrap of it is dissolved. Because pain has a way of coming back—growing sharp teeth and biting you to the bone—years from now, in unexpected ways.
It’s small, what I’ve written. But it almost always makes me feel better. I haven’t said much, but sometimes pouring your bag out on the table is the most satisfying step in getting to a clean bag. Just having that sucker empty. Because all I’ve done is pour out my hurt and it feels good. Listen, If you want to help, don’t tell me that hurting is wrong, or that I should trust God more. When my friend’s father died, he said he’d told a man the year before he understood what he must be feeling when that man’s father died. He had no idea, he told me. None at all.
When I mourn, I trust God. I trust that he’ll see me through it, and not be uncomfortable with the fact that I’m hurting. My weeping, snotty, prayers don’t seem awkward to Him.
Talking about our pain is healing. We fear that it’s too much. To tell. To hear. But it’s like pushing over a bucket of filthy mop water onto the ground. You just made a huge mess on the ground, but the world’s big enough to soak up the mess; take it all in. I tend to turn my bucket over onto the page. It always soaks it up. Sure, it leaves a stain, but the words are like a monument of hope. Something I can look back to and nod knowingly. Seeing how far I’ve come.
Seeing that is no mean thing. How far we’ve come. We don’t look back to be pulled back toward despair, or even mourning, but to be reminded of how far we’ve come. We look and see how small our pain appears from this distance. How much we’ve grown to be able to step over it, how strong we’ve become to be able to climb out of that pit. How faithful God is, even in that mourning everyone told us He despised. And that will most certainly bring a song of praise to our lips. …But not today. Today we weep.