Sometimes the fun stops and life seems nothing short of impossible.
So this week, hoping, in part, to find some respite from the dreadful news by which we are all currently being bombarded, I went to see ‘The Duke’, the new film starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren. It tells the true story of Kempton Bunton, the 60 year old taxi driver who, in 1961, stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. And what a wonderful escape it proved to be. Well almost – for, without spoiling anything for those yet to see it, the film didn’t entirely cause me to forget the events that, as I sat there in the darkness, tragically continued to unfold back outside in the real world. But although it didn’t go unnoticed, it wasn’t simply that the film portrayed a seemingly insignificant individual taking on the might of the establishment that got me thinking. What stood out for me was a single line of dialogue. From memory, it went something like this:
‘It’s hard to find an audience for plays that deal with grief’
The thing with grief is that too often we don’t want to hear about it. Sometimes, perhaps, we find it embarrassing, the awkwardness of not knowing what to say too uncomfortable. On other occasions it’s simply too painful to acknowledge just how awful things really are and we prefer instead to pretend that everything is totally fine and that the fun never stops. This is, to say the least, unfortunate because, for those who grieve, there is often a need to express the sadness that they are experiencing, to have it heard, and felt, by another. For those who mourn, to have their grief felt by someone other than themselves, reassures them that their pain is real, that their loss is important, that the events they have experienced matter, not just to them but also to the wider world.
But to express one’s sadness isn’t merely helpful for the one who grieves. To see the grief of another and share a little in their sadness helps we who, perhaps shedding a tear ourselves, are drawn a little closer to the one who suffers, making a connection with the one who grieves, a connection that, too often in this frequently contactless world, we fail to make. And this indication that we truly care is not only a sign of love, it is an act of love too – one that begins to change us inwardly such that we don’t simply feel the pain of another but are motivated to actually try and do something to help, something practical that might just make a difference.
This week then, perhaps more than ever before, we need to be an audience that deals with grief – the grief of others. We need to ‘weep with those who weep’ [Romans 12:15]. Rather than hiding away from what pains us, we need to expose ourselves to the genuinely awful reality of what pains others. We need to connect with those to whom we will never be introduced and allow ourselves to be moved to help, in whatever way we can, those who currently find themselves in such dire need. Ultimately it is that which will reveal us to be truly human, it is that which will ultimately distinguish us from those who, having no regard for others, are willing to destroy all that is beautiful, in pursuit of their own ugly agenda.
When life is nothing short of impossible, we need to somehow find the strength to carry on. When the fun stops, we must not. Because not everyone can escape from what they are currently being bombarded by – not, at least, by simply taking a trip to the cinema.
Our tears, of course, are not enough – they are but the start. It has been said that saving another’s life is rarely like it is in the movies, that rather than it being by pulling someone from a burning building, it can sometimes be achieved by a few kind words of support, a hug or a shoulder to cry on. Well I don’t doubt that that is true, but right now those things won’t be enough for the people of Ukraine. They need more, much more. More even than the money and essential items that are so wonderfully and so generously being donated by so many. Though we must all continue to show love and kindness by giving what we can, right now our fellow Europeans need someone who really can pull people out of burning buildings. More than even that, far too many already need someone who can raise them from the dead.
I believe there is such a one.
So, for the time being, even as we seek to love those we have never met and show kindness to those we do not know, as well as thus standing with the people of Ukraine, we will weep with them too – our own desperate and bitter tears. But as we grieve, I believe we need not do so as those who have no hope [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. For, because of Jesus Christ, the one who, having risen from the dead himself, really can raise others, because of the one who, sooner or later, we all will one day need, we can be confident that, though weeping may tarry for the night time, joy comes with the morning [Psalm 30:5]. Rest assured, a time is most surely on its way when all that now troubles us, both far away and closer to home, will be over – a day when our mourning will have turned to dancing, [Psalm 30:11], a day when we will rejoice with those who rejoice [Romans 12:15], and a day when every tear will have been wiped from our eyes and death shall be no more. [Revelation 21:4].
Oh that we might soon awake and salute that happy morn.
Here’s a link to another hymn I’ve been listening to of late. Perhaps you’ll find it as helpful to listen to its words as I have.
To read, ‘Light in the Darkness’ click here
To read, ‘Real Power’, click here
To read, ‘But this I know’, click here
To read, ‘A Promise Keeper’, click here
To read, ‘Jesus wept’, click here
To read ‘A Hand Held’, click here
To read, ‘Contactless’, click here
To read, ‘Hearing the grass grow’, click here
To read, ‘T.S. Eliot, Jesus and the Paradox of the Christian Life’, click here
To read, ‘General Practice – a sweet sorrow’, click here
To read, ‘On not remotely caring’, click here
To read ‘Vaccinating to remain susceptible, click here
To read, ‘From a distance’, click here
To read, ‘I’ll miss this when we’re gone – extended theological version’, click here
To read ‘Rest assured’, click here
To read ‘Hope comes from believing the promises of God’, click here
To read “Suffering- A Personal View”, click here.
To read “Why do bad things happen to good people – a tentative suggestion”, click here
To read “Luther and the global pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the cross”, click here
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