I read “news” news on Twitter – local, national, global. I read my friend’s news on Facebook - a lot about a few, a little about some, and nothing about 400 of them. I check Instagram to be assured of what’s right in the world including new babies, new shoes, and the comforting reminder that somewhere, right now, a farmer’s market is occurring.
The last few days FB’s personal updates and Twitter’s global ones have collided as we sit behind our screens, horrified at a world seeming to spin out of control.
Beth Moore tweeted, ” I have no words.” That’s saying something, love that woman.
Meanwhile during the past week I’ve been reading a book on faith development. The author has a section in which she discusses the practice of lament – as in it’s a discipline we should practice.
Because as tragedy does rightly silence us, when needed, we do have words. They’ve been being said for thousands of years. I’ll never forget Philip Yancey ,in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, explaining that not only can God handle our grief, He provides us with the words to express it.
One-third of the Book of Psalms are psalms of lament. One-third! But what about the sheep and the tambourines and the still waters?! In there too, but alongside a whole lot of articulated pain. How have we overlooked this? Avoided it? Forgotten even that there’s actually a whole book entitled “Lamentations”?
Will Willimon says this:
Today, when the contemporary Church reads Lamentations, the disciplines of mourning are being taught by a people who have experienced the worst of disaster to a people who tend to avoid grief at all possible costs…there will be no recovery, no renovation, and no rebirth until there is first the legitimate expression of grief, the public processing of pain, and honest admission of our true situation. Lamentations is the part of the Bible that teaches us how to grieve, how to be angry with God when we need to be, how to weep when tears are necessary.”
So if you’re interested, there are two forms of Laments, personal and corporate
Personal Laments (Psalm 13 is an example) contain five elements:
1. Address to God (vs.1 and 3)
2. Complaint (verse 1-4)
3. Expression of Confidence or trust (verse 5)
4. Petition (verse 3)
5. Expression of Praise or Vow to praise (verse 6)
Corporate Laments (Psalm 80 as example) contain six elements because “Expression of Confidence or Trust” is divided into two elements: “Remembering God’s past actions” and “Words of Affirmation.”
Still with me? You structure people are loving this! We can organize our grief!!!
No, not at all.
But we can use a model that plants us in the practice of grieving, making it feel less foreign, less an interruption. Especially in confronting global atrocities, practicing lament assures that our grief is not a fleeting internet-inspired emotion quickly overshadowed by the equally fleeting joy of shopping or fleeting grief of a failed car inspection. The Bible grounds our emotions, not dispelling them, while culture continually manipulates.
Social media overwhelms me into inaction. It’s a cacophony of causes out there. We are urged to pray and urged to act and urged to give and urged to not look away. Yet eventually, I switch sites or shut down and deal with the ones yelling their needs in real time.
But spiritual practices are work over the long haul. I know this because I don’t like them. But I also know this is how I am transformed. This is how all of us become people who know how to grieve and mourn and complain so that we may become people who know how to pray and act and not look away.