August 18, 2010
John UpChurch, Editor, Jesus.org
Empty rooms always get to me. The echoes where couches used to be, the scratch marks where paintings of flowers once covered nail holes, the carpet indentations where the treadmill once collected dust—taken together, the missing elements can be overwhelming.
In those empty rooms, first steps happened, weekends dwindled away, and strawberry smoothies cooled summer afternoons. Leaving means letting go of at least a part of those moments, especially the immediacy of place, where smell and touch can trigger the fullness of what transpired there.
Normally, I simply write off the feelings as nostalgia. But nostalgia's just a polite way to say "mourning" or "sadness." We say "nostalgia" when we really mean that we're sad to let go of something we've known, something we've grown accustomed to. We've gotten so familiar with the walls that leaving them hurts.
Deeper down, mulling over empty rooms is more than simply missing potted plants and funny shapes in the wood grain on the floor; it's about introspection. The objects that are missing have no value in themselves. The value comes from us. To other people our empty room is a blank slate, but to us, it's a place that will never be the same.
True mourning, the kind Jesus means in Matthew 5:4, involves that inward-focused examination—not looking at external changes, but peering inside at what those changes mean. Each day we can find an outward reason to mourn: social injustice, loss, death. And God offers peace for each of them. But the comfort Christ refers to here is for those who mourn from the inside out.
Let's focus on the obvious for a moment. Comfort always follows sorrow. We wouldn't offer condolences to those who received a promotion. God comforts those who have examined the depths of themselves and realized the need to mourn. They understand that the outside manifestations of sorrow reveal a more immediate inner need—the need for Christ. True comfort must start there.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Just like the poor in spirit who receive the kingdom of heaven, those who mourn realize something about themselves and let God take care of what's tucked away inside. The poor in spirit see the rags they wear spiritually, and the mourners see the source of their sorrows.
We mourn because we see what we are and what we've been: empty rooms ready for the rightful Tenant, Jesus Christ.