“Jesus wept.” John 11:35
Jesus wept. It’s dubbed as the shortest verse in all of Scripture and despite its size has a way of packing a wallop to the crowds that are gathered at that moment. It comes as the story builds around the death of Lazarus, his friend, and the questioning of the crowds as to whether Jesus is who he says he is now that he has finally met his match in death. Sure he could heal the blind man but death has a hold that stands as much greater than blindness or so it would seem. In that gatherings of jeers, anger, and spite, Jesus weeps. He weeps.
Of course, though, that is what is seen with the eyes, tears falling down his face. But tears are never just tears. Frequently they come from a much deeper place within, a place of our own pain and loneliness. Once again, he is misunderstood by the crowds and followers. Once again, he is doubted. Once again, he sees the lack of faith. Once again, they can’t seem to get past their own judgment of what they have seen with their own eyes and move to greater depths within themselves. When we do, we weep with Jesus for many of the same reasons.
More than once this past week I have been told to be angry. At times, screamed at by people telling me to be outraged. I’ve had it told to me on Facebook. I’ve had it told to me through the news. Heck, I’ve pretty much had it shown to me by the President and other political figures, be angry, and be angry for a reason. After some time I began to think maybe I should be angry. Maybe I should start screaming like so many on television are these days, at one another and with one another, with no path to understanding or even an inkling of listening to each other. Yet, all I feel is sadness and tears, like weeping. For everyone.
To this day I am most struck by the image of the young men in Charlottesville on Friday evening who had surrounded a gathering of ministers, practically holding them hostage, carrying flames with the looks of rage on their faces. In symbolic fashion, holding hostage their own hearts from being moved and changed. The last thing this situation needed was more anger, I thought. I began to wonder how men of such a young age could be harboring such strong feelings of anger and fear in their lives, knowing full well that that is what I was witnessing with my eyes. Deep down, though, anger and fear are merely masks, symptoms, of a much deeper hurt and wound that is often not visible with our eyes, including the hurt in my own life that I’m being invited into to seeking healing and reconciliation. If I’m not careful and aware, it’s quite easy to react to it when it arises and lash out at the closest target, often the one who has embodied that deeper hurt of mine and where I continue to hold onto it in which I don’t want to look or see within myself. It’s the human dilemma that we all need to face and confront at different points in our lives, individually and collectively.
As the week wore on, I listened to all the noise less and less and found myself wrestling with this reality in which we find ourselves. It’s not that I don’t agree that the level of hate and the realities of racism continue to cast a shadow upon us because I do. As long as there are humans we’ll face all of it. Often people are simply looking for validation of their experience since so much of what we do and how we act happens on the subconscious level without us even thinking. Raising awareness means the shifting to the conscious level, which is the only place we can deal with them, otherwise the wounds once again become buried within ourselves and the cycle of violence continues not only in the world but in our own lives, many times without us even being aware of it because it becomes are natural fallback, peeling back the scab over and over again.
If there is one thing I have learned through my own struggles and in facing my own violence toward others and myself is that there is no easy way around it. My natural inclination is to shut down in the face of it until I can reckon with the reality, a reality which never disappears by not confronting it head on. Dealing with our past is so often minimalized with, the past is already over, move on, as if I can just will my pain be gone. I wish it were that easy. However, the pain has a way of manifesting itself in the same ways, again and again, in our lives. Rather than trying to tear it down and rid ourselves of it, we are often invited to understand it, allow it to surface, and reverence it with the healing it needs, almost always through tears, weeping for what it was and even for what it was not.
The great risk in life as a part of the human race is to become what it is we hate, when in reality, we often already are exactly that. We live in this world filled with should have’s and could have’s, living with the disappointment that we’re not more than how we appear before others. We live with the disappointments often because we deal with the same problems the same way and expect different results each time, casting amnesia upon us in the face of perpetual violence towards our brothers and sisters. Through the use of our judgments, our own misunderstandings, our labels that denigrate fellow human beings to being monsters of sorts, in the end, gets us nowhere, often only validating the monster within ourselves that we haven’t learned to love. In some ways, I’d rather live with the moments of loneliness that comes with being misunderstood, as it was for Jesus, rather than use him against another. I’d rather live with the tears that come with not quickly reacting but first trying to understand the deeper hurt that is being aroused. I’d much rather weep than fan the flames of anger knowing that there is a deeper pain in the others life than I may never understand. I’d rather sit in silence and wrestle with it, knowing the expectations then placed upon me to react. Jesus weeps, sure for the death of his friend Lazarus, as most do when they visit a grave. But what we see never fully defines the depth of the pain and where it comes from within the other in those moments. All we see is what we want to see most often despite it just being the tip of the iceberg of one’s life, including for the Christ as he weeps for and with humanity.
More often than not, the path to love and peace, a peace which is a marriage of justice and mercy, will never arrive in our own hearts until we learn to sit, quiet ourselves, doubt, question, and learn to accept even our own selves, short comings and all, which closes the gap between myself and the other. The war that rages on beyond us as we see it is often the war within that we are invited to confront. The more we separate, divide, demonize, seek winners and losers, the greater that gap becomes, creating the tribal mentality that Jesus himself often confronts. I not only separate myself from others but I separate myself from myself. It deepens the blinders we wear, invoking fear and insecurity in our lives, leaving us wandering through the desert, often unbeknownst to us. In time, even for Israel, the tears began to arrive, not only for what had been done to them but what they had done to the other through their own pain. In those moments, glimpses of that promised land that they desired became visible.
As a country, and I’ve written this many times before, we will need to learn to weep and weep bitterly. Not select people, but each of us, individually and collectively. America has never been what it was supposed to be and never will. It’s not the chosen one. It’s not the city on a hill. It’s by no means perfect or somehow the greatest, all of which only feeds the illusion that we know better than the rest, avoiding the pain that lies within the heart of a nation. We are country among 195 or so others. We are 323 million of approximately 7 billion people on the planet. And it’s all ok. When we finally give up the illusions, the blinders, what it is we simply see with our eyes, we begin to see that there is something even greater about us that is not always visible to the naked eye. As much as our heart continues to beat, it is by no means without pain and hurt. That is very visible not only in Charlottesville but outside my own window, day in and day out. There is a story that is dying to be told, from deep within, a story that desires to be free, and will continue to kill if it’s not told. A human desires to be free. Lashing out and violence will never lead to what it is we want and desire. Rather, only through our own ability to weep, for what was and wasn’t, for what is and isn’t. Yes, it is the shortest verse in the bible but in doing so packs quite the wallop of bringing healing and reconciliation that is desperately needed in my life, your life, this city, and well beyond. Jesus wept. For everyone.