Nouwen: Crushed Grapes
“Sometimes our sorrow overwhelms us so much that we no longer can believe in joy. Life just seems a cup filled to the brim with war, violence, rejection, loneliness, and endless disappointments. At times like this we need our friends to remind us that crushed grapes can produce tasty wine.” —Henri Nouwen, “April 7” in Bread for the Journey (HarperOne, 1997).
Our God never promises that we will not experience sorrow or tragedy; but God does promise to be with us through our despair. Out of every Good Friday experience can come a resurrection, an Easter. When we, our friends, or those we come to comfort are in the middle of sorrow and pain, the words we offer are not comforting. We are called at first to be the love of God just by our presence with those who grieve. There are no words sufficient to fix things—only our love and standing with the broken can bring healing life.
As the sorrow of the grieving eases, we can slowly offer this promise of an Easter experience in which crushed grapes turn into wine. For example: some people whose son committed suicide have developed a plan for suicide prevention so that others will not have to go through their experience. I see those who have endured the death of a loved one become the first ones to reach out to others whose loved one has died, sometimes sitting beside them for hours. Parents whose child has been killed in a tragic accident go and build a playground or a trail so that other children will have a safe place to go. A family whose teenage daughter dies in a car accident begins an arts program for teens in public schools, since art made such a difference in their daughter’s life. Participants who develop a friendship in a grief recovery group form a funeral team at their church to care for families before, during, and after the service.
All of us are a product of our wounds. We have a choice. We can learn and work and live through our sorrows, and over time—at some point— may experience another Easter, taste a new wine. Or we can stay isolated and buried in our Good Friday tomb. My experience is that Christ stays there with us as long as it takes, ready to roll away the stone as new life emerges.
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