Quinn G. Caldwell
"They shall call the farmers to mourning, and those skilled in lamentation to wailing…" - Amos 5:16
"I'm getting good at this," a parishioner said. "I don't want to be good at this."
Over the past year, two close family members and a friend had died unexpectedly, and we were planning yet another funeral. Funerals are not the kind of thing that most people, with the possible exception of morticians and ministers, want to get good at.
We may not have professional mourners for hire as they did in Amos' day, but there are people who've been through so much grief that their amateur status is definitely in question. What I notice more often than not, at least in the church, is that the saints who have become skilled at lamentation also tend to have become skilled at other things: gentleness, generosity, commiseration, comforting. They're the ones who can do that thing with their eyes where they make you feel like they feel bad for you without pitying you. They're the ones who can hug you without creeping you out, even if you normally dislike hugs from strangers. They're the ones who can say things that would sound like platitudes coming from anybody else.
It's not the kind of thing anybody wants to be good at, but thank God for the people who are.
God who grieves every death and who mourns the fall of every sparrow, you knew this pain before any of us felt it. Don't give me the opportunity to become TOO good at lamentation, but grant that every grief I bear might show me how to help others bear theirs. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Pastor and Teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse, New York, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.