Luke 2:21-24 – On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." (NIV)
Titmice, chickadees, and mourning doves come to my feeders to eat the seed. They twitter, sing, and coo as they feed. The doves are a hoot as they strut with their head-bobbing stride. Their grey coats pale in comparison to bright male cardinals, but I still admire them, because they are devoted, lifetime spouses.
Yes, doves mate for life. Maybe that's why God commanded that "a pair of doves" be presented as a sacrifice when a child was consecrated at the temple. That way, the mate wasn't left bereft. As I discovered from the doves at my bird feeders, they really grieve when they lose a mate.
Last spring, as a male dove pursued a female, competition made the male peck at his rival while simultaneously trying to attract the female's attention. Distracted by the chase, he might have become easy prey for feral cats. More than a few grey feathers beside a bit of blood on the snow told the tale. The sound of mournful cooing drew my eyes to a single dove upon a nearby wire, possibly now widowed. Can you imagine the sorrow of a single dove when it loses its lifetime mate?
Likewise, can you imagine our sorrow when one of us loses a mate? Before I became a widow, I remember offering the usual platitudes to recent widows — statements like, "This, too, shall pass", "Someday, joy will replace your sorrow", or "I can imagine how you feel … why, when I lost my …". All these well-meaning, but hollow platitudes may offer sympathy, but they don't fill the hole in our soul left by loss.
My friends, it's impossible for anyone to crawl inside the soul of someone who is grieving. We can't really understand how the other person feels. All we can know is how we would feel or had felt in a similar situation. Nor do we really know what we would do to ease our sorrow until we are plummeted into grief.
When my husband died, I felt hollowed out, as if someone had taken a giant meat cleaver and hacked off half my soul. I felt horrible. I lost the desire to live, but I still had to go to work. I fell to my knees begging God to let this cup pass from me. So, He provided solace through other recent widows and widowers in a grief support group. Slowly, through the support of others, a lot of prayer, and the study of God's Word, I came to accept my husband's death as part of God's greater plan for my life. Then, through serving others, God healed my hurting soul.
When sorrow sucks us into the dark night of the soul, genuine acceptance of God's will through heartfelt prayer can free us. My mother was right when she said to take our sorrows in prayer to the cross and leave them there. Because Jesus took upon Himself our grief and sorrow, He gives us the ability to raise our heads and accept what comes. As we walk in the bright light of His eternal presence, we know that He's freed us to go on living and serving Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, dear Saviour, enable us to accept Your will and live in the light of Your love as the children of God that You have proclaimed us to be, for we pray in Your name. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "The King Of Love My Shepherd Is" (Lyrics)