Christians grieve, but, oddly, we enter our grieving with joy. Grief has its own peculiar beauty and value.
Absalom’s brother, Amnon, committed a terrible crime. King David, the father of both, forgave the sin, and, out of his love for him, he did not punish Amnon. Absalom, however, sought revenge on his brother. Two years later, he had Amnon killed and he himself fled the country.
King David wept and tore his clothes because of the death of Amnon, but he loved Absalom too, and the Bible tells us, “The heart of the king went out, yearning for Absalom.” He yearned for Absalom, despite his sin, because David loved his son.
After years of intrigue, Absalom rebelled against his father and David was forced to flee Jerusalem and fight a civil war. The armies of David and Absalom met, and David told his generals, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” Even in his rebellion, David loved his son, Absalom.
On the field of battle, however, Absalom was swept from his mount when his head was caught in an oak. As he hung from the tree, caught between heaven and earth, David’s general pierced him with a spear and killed him.
When David heard of the death of the murderous, traitorous usurper, he cried out with some of the most famous words of the Old Testament, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
King David grieved and wept because, despite everything, he loved his son.
Grief and love are inextricably intertwined. Without love, there cannot be grief. That is why grief has such poignant beauty. It is the beauty of love itself. When Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend, all the people said, “See how he loved him.”
Love is a risky business. Every time we allow ourselves to love someone else, a child, a friend, a spouse, we also open ourselves to grief, should the one we love be lost to us. Grief is an expression of love. Grief is what the bonds of love feel like when they are pulled tight by separation.
There is nothing shameful in grief and there is nothing wrong with it. Although painful, grief is a beautiful thing, because grief is love.
God is love, and because he loves us in our sins and in our rebellion, because we pull God’s love very tightly indeed, it’s possible to say God is also grief.
Imagine how it wrung the Father’s breast as his beloved Son prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” Imagine the weeping in heaven as a Son of David hung from the tree, and was pierced by the spear for murderers, usurpers, and traitors.
“O Jesus, my Son, my Beloved, Jesus, my Son, my Son!”
The Rev. Birch Rambo is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at email@example.com.