Years ago, a church in Maryland was building its activity center. One Saturday, the church was invited to carefully enter the structure of the building to view the progress of the work. As we entered, I remember a few of my male peers holding each other and shedding tears as we stood in what was being constructed to be the basketball court. Standing on what would become the basketball court was a very emotional moment. Not just for those of us who attended the church, but for those who attended the adjacent school.
You see in order for the school’s basketball team to practice they would have to use the community center basketball court around the corner. When they had games they had no home court. And in spite of this, they still played as hard as they could holding their heads up high in representation of their school.
So as the young men stood on the foundation of their new home gym floor they were not shouting with joy like others. Instead, they cried tears remembering how far they’d come. They cried tears because they now had a place of their own to play basketball as adults, but to also train younger players. They cried out of thankfulness that the school could host their own home games. These tears that they cried were triggered by them standing in the place that was being constructed for good. But, that joy did not cancel the memories of what they had been through.
When People Cry
The third chapter of the book of Ezra provides a similar scene. Standing at the temple foundation was a mixed crowd. Gathered were people rejoicing and shedding tears of sadness. The scriptures make it clear that they all stood on the same ground, looking at the same temple foundation. But some of the men who were much older and knew of the
prior temple cried when they saw the foundation of the new temple.
Why would they be crying, you ask? After being in exile for so long, and now, in a season of their lives in which they could rebuild and begin afresh, wouldn’t they just be happy? Unfortunately, the answer is no. As thankful as they were to stand in the new place, the tears couldn’t help but flow. They cried not because they were ungrateful, either. Rather, they cried because they remembered how they got to this new place.
In these verses we see the Israelites remember the times of their enslavement; they remember the leaders who died, and never saw this new edifice; and they remember why they even had to rebuild. They remember that their prior temple was destroyed. In their minds the rebuilding of a new temple triggered the memory of their journey: from their enslavement, their emancipation, their idolatry, their captivity, and eventually their destruction.
There’s Healing in Your Holler
Nevertheless, an amazing point about healing is very present here. The sounds of their crying at the foundation of the new temple served as a moment of release and healing that could allow them to build the new temple with clarity and processed emotions. It is best that when we are preparing to transition into a new moment in our own lives that we do not take old pain into new joy. The tears that the men cried ensured just that, that they would not take old pain into new joy. Thus, when it was time to continue the building and the supervising of the new temple they were ready.
As we prepare to transition into the next season of our lives: one full year since COVID-19 restrictions, one full year of virtual school, church, and many other things, let us make a committed effort to stand at the foundation of this season and pray, process, cry and heal. This is the only way we can enter into the next season with new joy. We will still cry, we will remember. But we will remember with hope for a brighter tomorrow.