God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4
I don’t belong here…
It took every bit of strength I had to not run from the room. Yes, it would cause a scene. Yes, it would be noticed. Yes, there would be consequences. But that thought kept running through my head and would not stop.
If they only knew what I had done, they would kick me out of here. If they only knew what kind of person I really am, they would run me out on a rail.
And then I was introduced as the new associate pastor at Central United Methodist Church.
Sure, it might have been nerves. Sure, it might have been the fact that our whole world had been a roller-coaster ride for a few months: losing my father, finalizing the adoption of our three youngest, saying goodbye to friendships and the product of nine years of fruitful ministry, moving into a new home, and above all, not having the safety net of a support team I had relied upon for the last five years through Celebrate Recovery at my former church.
And it is just at times like that the specter of my past failings liked to remind me of who I was, and that voice (not the still, small one, but the other one) bangs me on the back of the head screaming, “I don’t belong here.”
So why didn’t I run? How do I keep the sins of my past from dictating my present? How do I keep from letting the “other” voice win?
I learned (and am still learning) how to mourn.
I’ve always questioned the curious nature of the Beatitudes. They seem simple, even direct. But as poetic and simplistic as they are, they don’t mean much. That is, until you need to know what they mean. In my last post, I shared how I have come to know the first of the Beatitudes: “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” You may be like I was, saying, “I know what poor means, and I know what spiritual means…but put them together and…?!?!?” But God reveals to us (when we need to know it) that being spiritually poor means we must know that we come to him completely bankrupt; hands empty. Being spiritually poor, and knowing it, means we are holding no righteousness on our own; we have nothing to offer.
Now, in the second of the Beatitudes, “God blesses those who mourn,” we have to peel back the obvious meaning, and get to what Jesus was really talking about. Of course Jesus does promise comfort to those who have lost loved ones. But I have come to know a deeper reality, one that follows directly from the first: when I become aware of my bankrupt spiritual nature, I cannot help but have great sorrow for my sin.
It is hard to acknowledge your sinful nature. But do you know what is even harder? Pretending you DON’T have a sinful nature! Read what King David wrote about holding in his sin:
When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. (Psalm 32:3-4)
Can you hear the sorrow of sinfulness? Can you appreciate the agony of his wrestling with wrongdoing?
And at last, when all strength was gone, he mourns:
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. (Psalm 32:6)
You see, the good news about mourning, even mourning over one’s sin, is that mourning is one of those “it came to pass” things. It’s not an “it came to stay” thing. Take a look at how Psalm 32 begins:
Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty! (Psalm 32:1-2)
That’s how Jesus can promise that those who deal well with their mourning will be happy. To quote the Psalmist again, this time from Psalm 30, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.”
Not that I have it all together. I still blow it sometimes. I still listen to the wrong voice sometimes. But I hear the message a little differently now. I hear those words,
I don’t belong here…
and I agree. That’s right, I don’t belong here. Not because of anything I have done, or for any merited favor I have earned. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. By God’s great grace, I am here; it is by God’s great grace that I remain. And when I hear those four words ringing in my head, it brings a sly smile to my face, and spurs me on to greater things in grace.
-Rev. Carl Palmer
This is part two of a series. Click here to read part one.