Recently, I have made a new friend. I have been spending time with Old Testament scholar Ellen Davis. Well, at least through her books and sermons. Her love of the text and the imagination and reverence with which she plays with the biblical narrative resonate with me. I am impressed with the fluidity by which she moves between ancient story and modern principles.

Yesterday one of my appointments was cancelled, so I had some extra time to wander on a nearby nature trail. I visited another friend, this one arboreal. My American Sycamore. Its white bark was stripped as high I as high could reach. Its skin was soaked from all the recent rain, and thickened, peeling from decades of aging and weathering.

I touched it. Palm against bark. I always do when I pass by. We acknowledge one another, and we pray together. It has always lived its days perfectly to the glory of God. I cannot boast as much.

Some of us are coming out of mourning. We have all had a difficult year and a half with the pandemic. Many of us have experienced the death of loved ones, prolonged illnesses, isolation and loss of jobs and friends. So many of us are still in mourning. Some of us are just grieving over petty sorrows. Yet, honestly, who ever thinks their sorrow is petty? What does it all mean? How can we move forward when we feel our spiritual and emotional wheels spinning? We are heavy. And we carry wounds and scars that we would rather hide than expose.

Ellen Davis and the Sycamore have helped me recognize some of the lessons around growth and spiritual insight, vulnerability and community. Dr. Davis encourages us to listen to the wisdom and the illumination of lament.

In Preaching the Luminous Word: Biblical Sermons and Homiletical Essays, Davis includes the sermon “Faithful Mourning.” It is her way of addressing the strange statement in Matthew 5, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Living faithfully in sorrow is a form of self-renunciation that reaches to the bottom of your identity, as you learn to let go of what you could not have imagined being without: a healthy body, a marriage, a profession, someone whose life was as precious to you as your own. [It] means forswearing resentment at the loss of those old necessities, ceasing to hold over God’s head your idea of how things ought to be, and thus gradually becoming free to discover sufficiency, even abundance – abundance in the midst of loss…

The comfort of the mourner is the coming into being of a new self, previously unimaginable to you…

-Ellen Davis from “Faithful Mourning”

Uncovering who we really are is certainly uncomfortable, but it is the trailhead to transformation. It is the beginning of offering ourselves as a gift to others. And having something to offer, well, that is a gift all in itself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s