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Living the Beatitudes, part 2: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

The first lesson is where everyone starts: despair that clears the way. — Jim Corbett, Goatwalking

I don’t believe this Beatitude asks us to manufacture sorrow or to deny the goodness in life. I think it asks us to slow down, set aside our distractions and allow ourselves to face the sorrow and despair that we so often hide from in our busyness.

In the community where I live and work we begin each day with half an hour of silence. Guests are invited to join us. Often they find this uncomfortable at first.  This was also my experience when I first took up the discipline of silent worship in my teens. I found that it surfaced all the things I had been hiding from. My shame at my shortcomings, my fears of failing and being rejected, my grief at the suffering in my neighborhood and on the news, my fear of the consequences of pollution and climate change, my reluctant knowledge that I contributed to these global griefs through my daily consumption…  all of them forced themselves into my awareness once the distractions were cleared away.  I almost decided to stop praying in this way.

I realized in time that the silence didn’t create my distress, it simply made it conscious. When I refused to acknowledge this distress it drove my choices unconsciously, prompting me to cling fiercely to comfort and approval and resent whatever was taken away from me. When I acknowledged this distress I was able to see some of the uncomfortable truths that motivated it and figure out how to make the underlying situation better. I began learning to make and do more for myself and my neighbors, to do less harm in my consumption and to move toward a better society. It had taken a great deal of energy to suppress my griefs.  Once I acknowledged them my energy was restored for constructive work.

Once I opened my eyes to the things I didn’t want to see I was better able to see the goodness all around me: the beauty of the land, the love and honesty shown in the lives of family and friends and neighbors, the grace of God sustaining all.  Once I let myself mourn I was able to be comforted.

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