Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mourning

I've been feeling the brevity and brokenness of life lately. I don't mean this in a dark and twisty way, but rather the reality that there is an urgency and purpose to our time on earth. My family has several friends who have struggled with terminal illnesses over the past months, and hearing about those journeys of struggle and faith and loss and finally peace has made me think a lot about suffering and joy. As I mentioned in a previous post, my Kuwaiti friend's father passed away on the first day of Ramadan. I attended the 'aza (the sitting in or mourning)...it was unlike anything I have ever experienced. According to Muslim tradition, the person must be buried almost immediately (after whichever prayer follows the death)...so it is usually just a matter of hours. After that, the family holds the 'aza for three days. In Kuwait, the mourning is gender segregated and due to Ramadan, it was only in the evenings. So my Canadian coworker and I went together. We had asked around to find out proper etiquette since neither of us had been to an 'aza. So we pulled up to my friend's home shortly after nightfall. The street was already crowded and overflowing with cars. There was a valet service to take the car, and we walked up to the home (there were probably at least 50 women there already). We were both dressed all in black, but had been told that all the other women at the 'aza would be wearing black abayas (the long robe) without any adornment and with black veils. As we walked up the stairs, we definitely stood out (my friend is blond). When we entered the room, we saw a sea of black...women sitting all around the entrance hall in head-to-toe black. They stared at us, and I managed to shakily ask them for my friend (at this point, I was pretty nervous). We were pointed toward the main room and entered to find a reception line of family. We kissed each family member on the cheek and then took a seat. According to tradition here, you only go to an 'aza for about 10-15 minutes. You enter, greet the family, and sit for a short period of time (usually in silence). There are copies of the Koran sitting around in case you want to read, and maids that circulate with water. After the 10-15 minutes, you get up and go back down the reception line and then leave. If you are closer to the family, you usually attend the 'aza for multiple evenings and/or stay longer. As we sat in that room, I was overwhelmed by the grief of these gathered women. The dozens of black robed and veiled figures moved quietly around the room,sometimes wailing in loud cries. There was a sense of finality...of hopelessness...of loss. I never used to think much about heaven, but it seems that God has been bringing heaven to my mind more and more often in the past couple of years. As a counselor, I walk the path of suffering with my clients. I feel the hopelessness even as I struggle to speak hope and vision into their lives. I cry with them and I fight for them and I feel the weight of brokenness in a deeply fractured world. Here in Kuwait, I am not working as a regular counselor, but I am confronted daily with a place and culture that echoes back that same brokenness. There is a darkness here, and if you don't have the hope of a risen Savior, then I don't know how you keep breathing. When I was in the counseling program, my view of heaven was challenged. To hope in a broken world, you must have a vision of the future. You must believe to the marrow of your bones that there will come a time when there is no more pain and no more suffering...when the groaning of this world is finally silenced and we fall to our knees before the One, the only One, who is Redeemer and Lord. Sometimes it seems like it would be so much easier to stop fighting...to stop the slow and often painful crawl of faith in a broken world and just live in whatever way I want...but then I'm reminded that although this life sometimes seems all-consuming, the way of suffering is the way of our Lord. And there will come a time when the exhaustion of the fight will stop and our faith will be our eyes. This has been my theme song for the past couple of weeks...I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin.

"I Will Rise"

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

1 comment:

j.renee said...

Perfect words, Amy.