Slapped around the head, by Ben Jeapes

Watercolor by Kathy Goss:
Being slapped twice around the head is actually very convenient. A single slap just turns your head to face another way. The second brings your gaze back to the fore, where it should be.

Last week I got slapped by the Bible. Twice.

First slap: Sunday’s sermon on Matthew 5.4: “Blessed are those who mourn”.

Second slap: our house group Bible study on love, as the first listed of the fruits of the Spirit.

I had always vaguely thought that “Blessed are those who mourn” only applied to those who are bereaved, and so I never paid it much attention because I haven’t been.

But, what is mourning? Apart from the obvious of feeling sad, it’s also part of the process of moving on. That is precisely why it’s so important to mourn. Without mourning there is no healing. And so an essential part of the mourning process is letting it happen.

Another way of saying “Blessed are those who mourn” is “Blessed are those who let go.”

I am very bad at letting go. A far too frequent, and not remotely helpful, pastime is lapsing into furious monologues in my head, eviscerating people who have hurt or upset me with surgical, laserlike precision. Childhood hurts, more recent contentious outcomes of national referenda or elections - any time that people have just, in my humble opinion, been unreasonable.

And it hurts, because I base what I consider to be reasonable on my personal set of values, which I take very seriously because they in turn derive from my Christian beliefs. It hurts to have those values rejected.

Well, God said to me, time to let them die. Mourn, let go, move on. Instead of assuming God will work His purpose out in a way that suits my sense of spiritual aesthetics, maybe I can do my bit in helping Him by concentrating on the thing I’m actually called to do. Which is, love other people.

Which I can’t do if I’m mentally flaying them alive inside my head, can I? Love is a fruit and fruit has to grow. Growing fruit can too easily be stunted or stifled.

But of course, there is one place I can absolutely refuse to let love flourish. I can make sure resentments are clung onto forever. I can refuse to let any mourning happen at all. And that is on the page. From initial hurt to any stage in the process of letting go to learning to love: there are so many starting points for a character. For many characters. Describe one character’s journey? Describe the interplay between two or more characters at different stages?

So many possibilities …

But out here in the real world, I need to learn to mourn. How else will I make sure my characters do, or don’t, do it properly?

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of 5 novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer.