Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
One Sunday after returning from the Racial Reconciliation Mission Trip to Ferguson, Missouri and learning of the public “lynching” of Keith Lamont Scott, I was sitting in church on the last pew closest the choir when they began to sing the Negro Spiritual, “Lord, Hear My Prayer” directly into my ear. Unbeknownst to them or my fellow parishioners seated nearby, I was already grieving internally. The needless, unjustified public lynchings left me feeling sad and broken. It could have been me, my son, my brother, my wife, or even my baby girl! By the time the choir finished singing the first verse, I could no longer hold back the tears that were brimming the wells of my eyes. So, I took the tissue that my wife handed me, dabbed the streams of sorrow that flowed and did the best that I could to contain the convulsive sob that was fighting for its release. I mourned. As a former funeral director, I’d become skilled at establishing boundaries and emotional distance. Well, my skills did not work this time. They did not work after seeing images of George Floyd’s murder repeatedly shown on national television either. And THAT is the blessing in my grief. My humanity overpowered my training. Thus, I sat with the discomfort of the historical reality of being a Black Man in America and held onto my faith that God will keep me. I mourned as those who have hope.
In times of loss when we experience grief, we are often taught to suppress the feelings in public settings, distract ourselves, and somehow to move on as if we have not experienced a loss at all. However, in behaving accordingly, we deny ourselves of our very own humanity. We reject the possibility of experiencing the blessing and lessons of this uniquely uncomfortable feeling. We miss the opportunity to experience the strength that comes from one of the most vulnerable states we’ll ever witness on earth. We deny God the opportunity to do a divine, transformative work within us.
Brothers and Sisters, God wants to do a new thing in our lives, our community, and our church. This time is ordained. So, let us not move hastily away from the discomfort of this moment. Let us not seek a Band-Aid, quick fix that is right in our own eyes. Let us stand flat-footed, looking squarely into the center of the discomfort that resides within ourselves. Let us intentionally experience this discomfort, exhale, pray, discern, and act in alignment with the steps God has ordered. All the while singing…
“God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
thou who has by thy might
led us into the light;
keep us forever in the path, we pray…”
— A portion of verse 3 of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (Negro National Anthem, Hymnal 1982 #599), music by J. Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954), words by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938).
Teddy Foster, Social Justice Ministry