Those two words have an incalculable meaning. Our Lord and King, the perfected Human, felt sorrow and wept for His beloved. It is by His actions that we acknowledge that although there is an Eternal Kingdom, death and the parting of persons from their loved ones is a great sadness.
Within the past few weeks, death and dying have been visitors to my life. I have had the experience, the pleasure, really, to visit with an American woman here in China who was dying from breast cancer that had progressed into gangrene. She had come to China to be an English teacher and had lived many happy years here in Beijing. About six or so years prior she was diagnosed with cancer, refused treatment, and watched as her condition progressed and the world around her changed. A woman who had once been independent, now was at the mercy of those willing to help as she lost her job, was thrown out of her home, and needed high quality care when she had reached the point of no return. When discovered by the government as illegally living in China, since her work visa had been revoked when her job was lost, she was put into hospice and our government was notified. Her gangrene had gotten so bad that China could not put her on the plane because of the odor. This is where I met this beautiful woman: in the depths of vulnerability, in the greatest need of her life. And this is where Christ was knocking at the door of her heart, begging to enter.
Because of circumstance, I was only able to meet with her one single time. For those three hours I do not believe I spoke more than four sentences. I cannot say I made any sort of impact in her life, that I spoke eloquent, Christ-filled words, or that I eased any sort of pain that she was experiencing. But, I can say that she made an impact in mine. When I had planned to visit her for the second time, I received news that morning that she had passed away hours earlier. I cannot claim to have known her well but by the tears in my eyes Christ revealed that He had answered my prayers and had given me His Heart to love her. This beautiful woman died in the middle of a poor Chinese hospice, without friends or family, in a place that seemed completely destitute. Yet, I know that her death was mourned. Jesus wept for His beloved.
How did this death affect me? I am ashamed to say that for one whole day I barely spoke nor had the energy to do very much outside of prayer and reflection. ONE DAY? A person who has infinite meaning to Jesus, a person who Jesus Himself suffered and bled for, received 24 hours of my sadness. Is this not bothersome? Can we not all relate? The news is filled with horror stories of deaths and mass murders and we feel sadness and pity and even disgust at the headlines and photos, yet as the days pass we become bothered less and less. 9/11? The shootings at Virginia Tech or the Amish schoolhouse? ISIS?
Even yesterday I experienced my sinful apathy in its fullness. On our way to dinner with family and friends, we passed groups of people crowded around the sidewalk of our neighboring complex. As our laughing and giggles slowly dwindled and we paid attention to what had captured theirs, the shock of what was happening entered our hearts. Someone had jumped from the top of the high rise, 14 floors, and ended their life. When I had asked one group of people what had happened, they laughed through the words and said what they knew. A hotness of anger sat in my chest as I tried to brush off their reaction to what had happened. This person deserved our reverence, our respect, and our prayers.
After watching the body being removed and offering up our petitions for the repose of his soul, we continued on our way. Inside I just wanted to run home to the chapel and weep for this man who felt that their suffering was so immense that they could not bear one more breath on this earth. Instead, we continued on our way to the restaurant, ordered our meal, and life continued. Once again I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Jesus wept.
Both of these souls, although by different means, left this earth abruptly. Both of these souls had infinite value. Both of these souls deserve more than just a few prayers or moments of silence and I praise God that He has a bigger, more loving heart than I. Make no mistake, offering our prayers and supplications to the Lord is not the least we can do, it is the most we can do. We must also be willing to acknowledge how desperately we need Christ to open our eyes to what is important, to hold fast to it, and forget all the rest. He must replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh that expand past our own needs, wants, and desire so that we may hold others within its depths.
Today ask Jesus for this mercy. Ask Him for His love and do not miss an opportunity to be present with those around you and share in the ephemeral beauty of this life.