The chimes clanged in my ears with a convoluted kind of clarity. Strips of metal and wood hung seemingly stagnant, dead like the twenty-year-old soldier they stood to commemorate. Yet, something about those bells was so hauntingly alive. They whispered in the wind and somehow tangled their discordant music through the open space until their song was rooted in my soul.
My group was visiting a lookout site along the Gaza Strip; it was one of the heavier days of the trip, but I did not expect to be hit with grief of nearly unbearable intensity. This site doubled as a lookout point and memorial for a young soldier. He was only twenty years old and his community hung twenty bells in his honor after his death. It was very strange to me when I first heard them. They hung from a very simple structure: a plain wooden frame with wires keeping the silver pieces of metal and timber mallets in place. Beyond the memorial, a beautiful view awaited my already teary eyes. Open space surrounded the area, grasses of beautiful greens bursting from the ground. The sky was cloudless and blue, reflecting the sounds of the chimes back to me.
The music of the memorial was remarkable to me. It was full of paradoxes. Initially, I could barely even hear its whispers, but once the noise reached my ears I could not hear anything else. It was deeply unsettling, but not in a way that caused me to despair. It was humbling and it forced me to quiet myself. After further reflection, I began to understand my very physical reaction—a change in my disposition from boisterous joy to somber silence— because it came in response to a God sighting. We are often told that God is everywhere, which is true. However, I often struggle to feel His presence. Moments like the ones that happened at this memorial quiet me because they force me to see and understand the magnitude of God. The chimes captured a God like kind of lament. Grief is incredibly meaningful. It brings people near to death. It forces them to acknowledge the temporary states within which we currently abide. It is scary. This worshipful monument played a haunting kind of music that caught people’s attention and held it. It was the sound of death. At first, I could not quite hear God within the sound. I can still hear the chimes quietly whispering in my heart, but it now holds the comfort of God’s voice as well. Death draws people near to God, but it also pushes them away from his loving embrace at the same time. People who have lost their loved ones often fall into despair. They lose hope. They cannot see God and they turn their backs on the one thing that could give them any kind of comfort.
The moment I heard those chimes of commemoration will always touch me deeply because it emphasized the presence of God amidst immense pain and suffering. Hope is an elusive concept, especially through painful mourning. But, when we look to God as we lament, it becomes worshipful. It expands our view of Him and His great love. God is beyond our full comprehension. The sound of those chimes, however, gave me another piece of His great character. The moment of such a chaotically painful clanging led me to see God within hopelessness. Perhaps the strongest sign of hope is found within grief. We must remember that God is present within our laments. We must not shy away from looking to Him during our times of mourning. Individuals falling to their knees and crying out before God in pain is the clearest disposition of hope I now have held in my mind, commemorated through whispering wind and clanging chimes.