Friday, August 14, 2015

Maria, Dominus Tecum (Tears of Joy in Deep Mourning)

How can it be that we give thanks with these shattered hearts? What is this laughter of joy that escapes in the release of tears? How is this broken and dark world so filled with beauty? Do we really want to see with the eyes of God? The pain is unbreathable, and the glimpses of hope and love are both a fresh wind of life, and a harsh reminder of our present state.

We run to a hurting God. We find shelter in the arms that were stretched and pierced. We turn tear-drenched faces to the One who can make beauty from our ashes. He doesn't bring the darkness, humanity has ushered that in for centuries, but He can illuminate that darkness, and banish even the cruelest day to the cowering corners of our deep praise and celebration.

My fingers tremble and my throat constricts as I allow the emotion of today to flood back through my being. Its like a great torrent being suppressed by a collapsing dam. 

The air of Cienaga Grande was hazy with wood-smoke from lunch-time tortillas. The sun illuminated the dust from the rain-desperate ground. A steady pat-pat-pat-pat could be heard as the Mayan mother in the adjacent adobe and corn-stalk house formed corn tortillas in her hands. Soon we would smell their goodness as they heated over the wood fire.

Maria sat in a new plastic chair, on the porch of her new home. She held her three grandchildren with desperate hands. Their mother was gone. To where... no-one knows. They only know that she won't be back. The kids have no father. Tragedy has taken him in some unspeakable way. They are orphaned. 

Maria raises them alone, along with her adult, special-needs daughter. This story is repeated countless times across these small villages. That knowledge alone is enough to shatter my resolve and to question faith at every step. With each step I find the answer in the face of God whose tears fall down on me like fresh rain. 

We need rain in this place today. The air is dry. The land is parched. We are desperate for relief. It is no-where to be found as we consider the plight of Maria.

Maria also is dying. She's been examined by the best of doctors, even one this week. Oh, I give thanks to God for Dr. Tom. He represents love, patience, and kindness to us all. A smiling face and his hand to hold hers even as she faces certain and approaching death. Maria's cancer is far, far too gone. Her liver is devastated. Her abdomen is cruelly swollen. The beautiful mayan fabric that she has woven can no longer hide the manifestation of her mortality that catches the eye of even the most casual glance.

Maria and everyone here is forced to stare death in the face as it begins to pull her back to the earth. Nothing short of a miracle from God can save her. The brokenness of creation, the brokenness that tears at us all, is standing in full, terrible sight. Death is mocking us like Goliath towering over Israel in the battlefield. We are powerless in this moment.

Maria listens to members of the group as they express deep appreciation for our week together. Then Maria begins to speak. Her voice is weak, tired, and trembling. She gives in to a soft cry, and the dam violently and suddenly bursts with full throated sobs. We no longer hear the pat-pat-pat-pat from the neighbor. Its like all of creation hears the emotion that is wrenched from deep inside of Maria.

Photo Credit: Michael Pak
We are mortified. This is to be a day of celebration... and yet it is a day that death boldly stands among us, daring us to give thanks. No-one moves while she wails. 

I felt my heart explode as Edgar Ramos, my dear friend and ministry partner steps forward and stands with her and her remnant of a family. "Everyone, come in a circle. Let's pray." And so we did. Slowly at first... everyone was stunned. But we gathered around Maria and her family... and we prayed.

This was no timid prayer. It had to be shouted to be heard above her weeping. And shout he did. Edgar prayed with the power that is found in the boldness of throwing ourselves at the feet of an almighty God. Suddenly our timid group heard the spoken words of Maria as she prayed out to the God that held her soul. The mighty prayer of Maria, coming out from that broken body, shattered the presence of Death.

We all began to pray. Mighty and bold prayers ascended from that little dirt lot as we found ourselves shaking with the intensity of the presence of God who we met on the battlefield as He banished the darkness.

We would not be robbed of this moment of celebration! Maria expressed that she had been given an unexpected hope. She had dared not even ask God for such a thing. But now, she gathers her loved ones under the new roof that will hold them even after her body is laid to earth.

I fell to my knees and palms directly into the dirt as I gave a fearful thanks to my God. He wept with us in this broken place. He weeps for all the pain and suffering throughout this world, and He weeps for Maria. He weeps for creation and when we turn our faces up towards His, the darkness around us disappears with the light of His face.

Maria has been given hope today by those unlikely people from Seattle Washington that found themselves in a dirty little village. They took time to step away from the complications of their own lives... to cry beside Maria as they raised walls for her family.

This is the love of my God. He weeps with me in my pain while he builds the walls of the Kingdom around me. We are meant to walk together, you and I. He turns our mourning into tears of joy. 

Your suffering is not forever. The pain will end and the God who weeps with you will dry them with his nail-scared hand. And so... we stare death in the face and we breathe deep the presence of God. We can face this. We can face this with confidence and boldness together.

Catalyst Resources International will walk beside this dear family. We will hold weakening hands and weep together as we celebrate the hope that goes before us all. We find tears of joy in our mourning.

We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!

Diane Herman, founder of House of Hope, Dr. Tom from Seattle, and Edgar Ramos
surround Maria as they discuss how to provide needed comfort and care for the days to come. 

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