lament

This is the next in the slightly-less-frequent-than-I-had-hoped series of bloggages about prayer, beginning with buffet. Do explore the others if you fancy expanding your experience of praying. This one is, I confess, one that is mostly ignored in my tradition of church (Baptist). But I think we need to recover our ability to lament.

Laments are a strange form of prayer. They are neither one thing, nor another, they just are… well… laments. They are expressions of emotions (often painful or angst-ridden) about situations and circumstances. They can be articulate rants and they can be distressing howls of pain, they can be shouted at the heavens and they can be whispered through tears. And, for me, the most amazing thing about them is that they don’t have to have a resolution.

In a lament you express to God how you are feeling, you may beg him to do something about it, and you leave it with him. From a therapeutic point of view you might say that it is good to express how you feel and get it ‘off your chest’, but that is not the main purpose of a lament even if it is a positive by-product. I reckon the main purpose of lamenting is to enable us to be honest with God.

If there’s a tragic event that has taken place and you are angry that it has happened – lament.

If you don’t understand why God allowed something bad to take place – lament.

Even weeping aloud or silently about a situation can be a form of lament.

And by not requiring a resolution we do not have to worry about discerning an answer or articulating an outcome that we may not be able to see. We can simply tell God how it is for us. We can even complain about him to his face. He is able to take it, and because he knows all of our emotions he already knows that is how we are feeling so there’s no point in hiding it.

The danger of laments is that they can become part of a downward emotional spiral if that is all that we do. A good lament may not have a resolution but it does ask God to do something about it. It has an expression of faith that may be full of questions, doubt and anguish, but it is still an expression of faith that God might be present and act.

Laments are not often articulated in the churches I attend. Why not? I think we are afraid of admitting how we feel, exposing our doubts and pain, and not having a good answer at the end of it. This coming Sunday I am going to be part of a church service where we will be lamenting about events in the recent past of the church and part of that will be expressing regret, sharing painful memory and yet also declaring a hopeful resilience about the future.

How about you? What do you lament? When do you lament? Do you lament? God welcomes it if you have the courage to give it a go…

Be blessed, be a blessing

lamenting

Recent events have led to a heart-breaking hashtag trending on the internet: #metoo. Women around the world are using this to speak out about the misogynistic or abusive treatment they have received at the hands of men. It has taken the immense courage of the women who have made allegations against such a high profile and powerful person as Harvey Weinstein to break down the floodgates of fear and empower and en-courage others to speak out in this way.

Sadly we know that this scandalous treatment of women is nothing new – we even find it in the Bible with the rape of Tamar and the unfair treatment of the unnamed woman dragged before Jesus with a baying crowd ready to stone her for allegedly being caught in the act of adultery while the man was not similarly accused. This is not how God created men and women: we were made for complementary relationships not exploitative ones. We were created to act out of love not lust. God’s law speaks of (and Jesus enacts) the responsibility to protect not exploit, to raise up the fallen not trample on them, and the responsibility to use power to help the most vulnerable not gratify yourself.

I have felt deeply moved about this and have not been sure what to do with the range of emotions that I have been feeling until I thought about lamenting. I think that this is one of the times where the Biblical concept of lament is called for – whether you use the words of laments such as Psalm 102 or create your own. A lament is not simply a cry of woe, it’s an honest cry to God against injustice, oppression, violence and evil. It’s a heartfelt and defiant call to the Lord and into the world that despite the circumstances faith is not extinguished and that good will prevail over evil despite how things appear. It’s an invocation for God to do something. It’s a reminder that this is not how God intended things to be and they will not always be this way. It’s a call to action to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So this week I lament:

I lament for those who are victims. Many friends of mine (both women and men) have posted #metoo this week to say that they have suffered abuse. I cannot begin to understand the pain and hurt that they have carried with them caused by others whose treatment of them was degrading, dehumanising and disgusting but I lament for them.

I lament at the scale of the scandal but the sheer numbers are cold and heartless: each one is a story of someone made in God’s image but treated as less than that.

I lament that we live in a world where those who are victims feel so intimidated, afraid or ashamed that they have not been able to speak out until now (and many more won’t have even felt able to use the hashtag). I lament for the silent and voiceless.

I lament that men have done this and that we have built a patriarchal society that not only allows this to happen but has seemed as impregnable as the walls of Jericho – may God use the movement of his people to break it down.

I lament that it is not how God intended us to be with one another. I lament at the distortion of God’s creation that we were created to love one another not exploit and abuse one another.

I lament and ask that God might use this moment to not only unearth and expose the evil but also to restore the dignity, honour and self-worth that has been stolen from those who are victims.

I lament and ask that God might use this moment to restore his Kingdom values in his world so that we see one another as he sees us and that we love one another as he loves us. I lament and resolve to play my part in that movement for change.

Will you join me?

Be blessed, be a blessing

 

(This bloggage was previously shared as a Thought for the Week with Ministers of the Eastern Baptist Association)