Practicing Lament

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.

Cindy’s Serums and Circles

I had never really feared getting older. My goals were always to be smarter and better, not prettier and cooler, so age seemed to be on my side. But our culture is pervasive and persuasive and right around my birthday this year, numbed with confusion and burdened by the environmental affects plaguing my skin (namely, the air in the minivan} somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30 am, I hit the wrong channel on the remote and landed on an informercial for this:

 You see, Cindy Crawford has teamed with a doctor  whose method halts aging on melons…so he prescribes it for faces. This is what I needed. A non-aging melon face.

My last thought before giving out my credit card for the starter kit? It’s Cindy Crawford, it cant’ be a scam.  

Am I twelve? No. Apparently that’s the issue.

Though often billed as  a steady force of face-dulling, dark spot enhancing, forward motion, I experience aging when things come full circle. Overalls and Birkenstocks are back.  I’ll leave Birkenstocks out, as orthopedic comfort is more appreciated as I age, but overalls really? Like the ones Erin and I wore everyday in tenth grade as our own weird sociological experiment until I broke out in a rash? Was that a good look?  The rash definitely wasn’t. Welcome back.

But then a few weeks ago I attended a wedding where I got to pray with a group of women I’ve watched grow up. In a stolen moment before the ceremony that was quiet and sacred, we stood around a beautiful bride and thanked God for grace and friendship and joy, for the past years and the future ones. I had two inches of Cindy Crawford’s Glowing Serum on my face but for the  first time felt so matronly, and so content to be there exactly as I was. Look what I have been able to witness…

Then the very next week one of those women, who not so long ago sat on my living room floor eating brownies after  I put Infant Sophia to bed at 6:30 because I was a hyper sleep trainer, led my almost second grader at Vacation Bible School. Sophia came home every day talking about the chants Tara had her crew do as they marched around the church. I felt not-young and awe-filled, and immeasurably grateful. I only hope that some of these women will circle my girls in prayer one day, with or without me, my face no doubt disintegrated from non-FDA approved product use.

When we recently moved it was to the  same street I lived on in college. Heartwarming. Bizarre.  I sometimes imagine my 20 year old self walking down the street in front of my house, to get to class or wherever I went instead of class. I like her. She’s funny and idealistic and has worked out a good scam in living with all of these athletes who feed her. I yell to her to wear more sunscreen.

Then the creepy flashback ends and I return to my life. I’m not who I was and I’m glad. I’m earning my matronly badges and learning this side of things might have the real perks. I’m more honest, less hard on myself, more hopeful, more at peace. I’ve seen too much of  God’s faithfulness to be unchanged and  the ways it has shaped me, perhaps my face may never show.

Besides tonight when our new neighbors, you know, the Girls Soccer Team, brought me their team dinner leftovers, all was right with the world. Full circle. Welcome Back.