Last week, in our morning reading, Steve and I came to a section in the Old Testament that will always resonate deeply with me. These words from Jeremiah were my sustenance years ago as I prepared to face my biggest loss in leaving Eastern Europe. But the day we read these promises last week also happened to be the one in which we said good-bye to a dear friend. (Read here about my book club’s bucket list sleepover.)
Today, the world remembers our shared tragedy on this day 12 years ago. Thirteen years ago, as I grieved my uprooting from Eastern Europe, I had no idea that a season of planting and laughing and dancing and keeping was waiting for me just around the corner. As the preacher in Ecclesiastes said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every action under the heavens.” Whether you’re currently experiencing a dark time or a joyful season, it won’t last forever. This, too, shall pass. Hope will come.
My friend’s service last week held a blend of tears and laughter, mourning and thankfulness. We shared cherished memories that simultaneously brought joy and sadness. Rather than express bitterness at a life taken much too soon by cancer, her husband and young sons all said that they are the luckiest people alive to have had her as their wife/mother.
The memorial that has risen from the ashes at Ground Zero reflects that. The lives senselessly taken that day can never be replaced, but the God of all Comfort can lead us into a new season – one, however, that is forever marked by their absence. Life does go on, but it is an altered life – a new normal. Grief continues to drop in unbidden, but someday, laughter may surprise you.
Let these words dwell in your heart today:
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again,
and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
and go out to dance with the joyful.
Again you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
and enjoy their fruit…..
They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble…..
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
and they will sorrow no more.
Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow…..
Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant.
Jeremiah 31: 3-5, 9, 12-13, 28