Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
I left work the other evening to be greeted by the perfect Autumn scene. Gauzy mist hung in the mellow sky, shrouding everything with an air of mystery. Swathes of leaves, all shapes and colours, collected at my feet. Raindrops from the day’s drizzle shimmered along their veins. Red, orange, yellow and purple created a vibrant patchwork carpet beneath my boots.
Trees everywhere are aflame with glory in this season. On sunny days, rays of light dance through the leaves as the wind catches them up and sweeps them down to their death. Mother Nature is going out in style, even as winter creeps slowly towards us. Autumn is the beginning of the end. It is the grand finale of the year before darkness and death take their turn in the cycle of seasons.
In some ways it feels like the world has been in winter for a long time already. The air is saturated with grief. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a story of loss or pain or suffering of one kind or another to tell.
Our public life also gives us plenty of cause for grief. The earth groans in pain at the way we have treated her. Toxic shame forms the basis of too many conversations and traps people in fear. Nations become greedy and selfish, convinced that the best way to thrive is to exclude the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalised – whomever we deem to be the ‘other.’ We have exchanged the truth for a lie.
Reflecting on life of Mary Magdalene, Sarah Bessey writes that she ‘reminds me to stay in the sadness until I hear the voice of Jesus say my name.’
Sometimes we need permission to stay in the sadness, too. Grief is an appropriate, healthy response to loss and we don’t need to rush away or move on too soon. There is a time to mourn, as the book of Ecclesiastes tells us, and if that is our season, we are wise to name our pain and sit with it a while, to see what it might have to say.
But Mary Magdalene’s story also carries with it a note of hope. Right in the middle of her grief, Jesus says her name and just like that, the season changes.
We have no control over the changes of season at all. And yet still the sun sets and rises as the earth turns, still the seasons are faithful to repeat their cycle of birth and death. It is a comfort to know that no season lasts forever.
So we stay patient in our grief, listening out for the voice of Jesus saying our name.
I’m listening for it in the whisper of the leaves that ride on the wind. I’m listening for it in the pink streaks that grace the sky on Autumn evenings. I’m listening for the voice of Jesus in the morning chill and the evening mist. I’m listening out for my name in the colours of the trees reflected in the lake.
Who knew that seasons of dying could hold so much beauty?