Second Week of Advent
December 16, 2023
Weeping While Sowing
(Mark Liebenow, friend of LABC, is an essayist, poet, and blogger. His essays, poems, and literary reviews have been published in over 40 journals. The author of four books, his poetry has also been set to music. He writes a weekly blog on grief (widowersgrief.blogspot.com))
Psalm 126 (NRSVUE)
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
Matthew 21:28-32 (NRSVUE)
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not,’ but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same, and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him, and even after you saw it you did not change your minds and believe him.
When we are living with great heartache, it’s difficult to imagine ever feeling happy again. Suffering takes our life over, and we’re tempted to wrap it around us like a blanket to protect us from being hurt even more.
This passage in Psalms (echoed in Matthew 21) speaks of two realities of life: sorrow and hope. Someone is weeping, yet they go out to plant a new crop so that people will have something to eat in the future.
We do not get over our losses by dwelling on them. We don’t get over our tragedies by ignoring them or saying that they don’t matter. They do matter because they are part of our life, and not to remember is to turn our back on ourselves and the people who helped us survive those events.
The person in the psalm did not stay on the couch and stew on what was gone, letting sorrow disable their life. They set the bag of potato chips down, got up, went out, and planted seeds so that life could continue. They did not wait until they felt happy again. They did not let the past dissolve their future away. They believed that the bite of sorrow would fade if they did something positive.
When I was going through six weeks of daily radiation to deal with cancer with a number of other people, we wondered if the treatments would get rid of all the cancer, or if we might still die. We struggled with the direct effects of the radiation on our bodies as well as its aftereffects. What helped us get through our uncertainty and doubts was the fellowship we formed with each other. We were hurting and scared, but at the beginning of each session, we would ask each other, “How is your day going?” Then we would listen, and find a way of offering support.
John Muir said, “the darkest scriptures of the mountains are illumined with bright passages of love….”
Joy does not cease to exist when we get knocked down, are depressed, or feel so lost that we don’t know which way to turn. Joy remains all around us, waiting for us to notice. Yet, it is difficult to see the light of joy when we are living in the dark place of grief. The reality of life is that every day there will be something to mourn, but there will also be something to celebrate.
Sorrows that we carry deep within us do not go away, but neither does hope, faith, or love, and they help us endure. What we choose to do each day matters because each day is a new day of possibilities. Believe in the power of hope.
Blessed are those who mourn and go out to help others, for they know the need for compassion, and they understand that this is the way of living our faith.
Care for each other, my sisters and brothers, today and forever.