This New Year’s Eve we got word that our nephew’s little boy Sawyer, not yet 4 years old, had been taken from us in a car crash.

As the world in general celebrated, we wept. While others were light-hearted, our hearts felt, and feel, like stone. Numbness, pain, denial, grief, and questioning. . . always questioning.

Questions with answers we do not understand, some with answers we know but which do not satisfy, others with answers we feel we will never find.

Oh, surely. Speak to us of God’s promises, tell us “death will never again have the last word.”  We know these things. We need to believe them. But at the moment, we can barely hear anything beyond our tears and the beating of our own hearts. And wondering why our hearts still beat when his is silent.

Everything seems so wrong. And it is wrong. We were not meant to say goodbye. We were not created so that we could experience such loss. At these times we begin to grasp that we are pilgrims, that this world is not our home. It cannot be our home. We were not made to live in a world where such loss is even possible.

And as the world around us celebrates, for some reason the words of Psalm 137 begin pulsing through my spirit.

By the waters of Babylon,
    there we sat down and wept,
    when we remembered Zion.

At times like these, we remember the world we lost, the world that included Sawyer. and beyond that, an ancestral longing for Eden, where death is the stranger.

But we live here. And here, the unknowing throng greets us with “Happy New Year!” Is it? Most of the old year seemed so much happier.

On the willows there
    we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
    required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
And then there are the fellow believers who tell us, “Don’t be sad, God will make it all right. Don’t grieve, it shows a lack of faith. Everything will be all right!” Yes, in the New Earth, we’re told, every tear will be dried. But we cannot sing the songs of the New Earth when we are living and suffering loss here, in exile. Do not torment us, requiring the songs of Zion. We are grieving by the rivers of Babylon.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song
    in a foreign land?

And that is our challenge. Yes, we know. Life must go on. We must not let go of hope. We must find the melody again, must find the courage to sing of the Eden restored and of the New Earth. That will be for tomorrow, or the day after–some day after. But not today. Give us leave to hang our harps today. Allow us space to weep by the rivers of Babylon.