Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Do not weep."

"Because I said so!"  Words we have all heard from our own parents. Words we swore we'd never invoke . . . until we found ourselves face to face with a persistent little one's litany of whys.  In exasperation there they are, those four words.  We blurt out, "Because I said so!"

I used to think these words were a cop out and perhaps sometimes they are used as such, but the more I've used those words myself the more I've understood their importance.  There are some things children cannot understand - the danger of a busy street, the reality of their own limitations and need for sleep, the need for the adult to have their eyes on the road as they navigate a sea of cars in rush hour traffic, that ice cream is not breakfast food (at least not all the time).  The "whys" cascade from their little mouths like a line of dominoes gently nudging the next to fall. Sometimes they’re trying to genuinely understand and sometimes they’re simply pushing the boundaries. 

Yes, there are things they cannot understand, things they simply do not know.  And up bubble those words, "Because I said so."  We know.  We care.  We see.  “Trust me”, we say.  Used in earnest, I think that is what those words mean.  "I care about you, believe me, trust me, because I said so."

Today's gospel echoes these words.  No, Jesus doesn't use those four exact words, but listen to what he does say to a grieving woman in the seventh chapter of Luke:

As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

"Do not weep."

Can you imagine?  This woman is a widow and now she buries her only son.  And Jesus' chosen words in that moment are “Do not weep”?  Didn't Jesus weep when Lazarus died?  Isn't it natural to weep when a loved one is gone?  Of course it is. 

Yet Jesus' statement "do not weep" sees beyond the present moment.  Like a parent who sees more clearly than their child, Jesus knows something more.  He knows what he is about to do, he knows the life he is about to resurrect, and he knows the joy that will come in a few moments by his grace. And so he says "Do not weep."

The point is Jesus knows.  He always speaks to us from a place of knowledge.  Not hunches, probabilities, or speculations, but knowledge.  He tells us to be still because he knows what is needed to listen.  He tells us to wait because he knows when we are ready.  He tells us to trust because he knows what he has planned.  He tells us “no” because he knows what is good for us.  He tells this widow “do not weep” because he knows what he is about to do.

I can’t help but wonder the widow’s response.  As someone whose tears are easy to jerk so to speak (I oft cry at things like Smallville and So You Think You Can Dance), I’m pretty sure I would have shot Jesus a dumbfounded slightly annoyed expression . . . and wept. 

The scripture doesn’t tell us her response.  Did she ignore him and go about her mourning?  Did she drop her jaw in shock or furrow her brow in confusion?  Or in that moment when her gaze met Jesus’, did she look on him with trust and stop her crying? 

That last scenario is something for me to ponder.  I like to think the woman chose to trust Jesus’ words. 

Next time God says to me “wait”, “trust”, “not yet”, “do not weep”, “because I said so” -  what will I do?  Will I argue, persist, complain, ask why, roll my eyes?  Or will I stop, let my gaze meet his, and trust? 

“Do not weep.”  He knows.  “Because I said so.”  He can be trusted. 

Lord Jesus, help us trust in you!

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