Thursday, April 02, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Lament

This month we were supposed to write about renewal. That makes perfect sense; it's April, springtime, Eastertide (in ten days). But this year, though the weather is cooperating (at least here in my Caribbean island paradise), the air feels heavy. We're learning new words: social distancing, superspreader, zoonotic. We're reading words we've only seen in fiction or history in the news: pandemic, quarantine.

As I've shared here before, this has already been a difficult school year in Haiti. Children have missed many weeks of school due to political unrest and peyi-lok, Kreyol for locked country. Everything shut down, and we went to distance learning. Then we had the glorious third quarter, when we met at school every day and life was bright. And now, back home again: it's not peyi-lok this time, my son pointed out, but mond-lok, locked world. There's nowhere to run from it.

Today's host, Donna, suggested a topic change. She wrote that we should "go ahead and connect to whatever is topmost on your mind and how you are dealing with everything. What’s getting you through or what have you seen/ witnessed that has been uplifting?  What’s something positive you’ve heard of or witnessed?"

At first glance, what I'm sharing, lament, doesn't seem very positive, but I think it is positive in the sense that God wants us to bring our true selves to Him. In a podcast I listened to, Aaron Niequist shared that a third of the Psalms are about lament, while zero percent of modern worship songs are. The Psalmists expressed what they felt, even if it was despair, grief, a sense of being abandoned. And Jesus quoted Psalm 22 on the cross, when He asked His Father why He had gone away. I recommend this podcast for its step-by-step ideas on lament.

In this article, which is all very much worth reading, N.T. Wright says, "Lament is what happens when people ask, 'Why?' and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world. It’s bad enough facing a pandemic in New York City or London. What about a crowded refugee camp on a Greek island? What about Gaza? Or South Sudan?" I would add, or Haiti? I can't even fully think about what it will be like if/when this virus takes hold in this country where I live. I can only approach it sideways, and pray about it with my eyes screwed shut, not looking around me. The largest number of ICU beds I've heard is 200 (for 12 million people), and 70 ventilators.

I wish I had some happy way to wrap up this post, but I really don't. Just that we can bring it to God. We can rail and rage and beg to know why. The ancients did, and so can we. And then we can pick ourselves up and go on, facing reality day by day, or as much of it as we can bear.

Honestly, this podcast was more encouraging to me than just about anything else I've read or listened to so far. It's from the London Review of Books, and it's a discussion between a man in Italy and a plague historian living in England. The historian comments on how strange it is to write about something (the plague) and then experience it. She draws many parallels between the quarantine in Florence in 1629 and the current quarantines/lockdowns being experienced around the world. Why does this encourage me? Well, people have been through this before. Not only that, but they went through it at a time when they knew way less about disease and medicine than we know now. And they got through it. Day by day, they got through it. They sang on their balconies (yes!), were isolated, danced. Nobody recorded it on Facebook, but it happened. And we'll get through it again. We can lament and grieve, and then we can keep going. 

You're in my prayers, Spiritual Journey Thursday buddies. Keep me in yours, too.

Head on over to Donna's place to see what others have written for today.


Fran Haley said...

I am bookmarking your post, Ruth, to come back for the podcasts - I am very intrigued by the plague connection as well as lament (my music director son says "Huh, never thought about 0% of contemporary worship songs being about lament ... that's true." I think of Job's suffering and surely his words were a lament, yet he was "a just and upright man" - it is not wrong to ask why or to grapple with faith; it is how we grow. I think also of Psalm 34:18: The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit and Matthew 5:4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. -- Yes the ancients knew that a lament was a way of releasing, of grieving, of drawing near to God, not away in faithlessness. I can only imagine the stark contrast of your sunny island paradise with such needs and wants already, and now ... how could we be human if we do not grieve? Does God Himself not grieve for His beautiful creation-? Yet He moves within it all, actively recreating ... thank you for such a beautiful, thought-provoking, and nevertheless inspiring lament. And the links. :)

Donna Smith said...

You had me thinking about lament and song, so did a little searching. I came up with this link that was very helpful to me and my life situation lately

Thank you for your message here today. It will stay with me for quite some time.
Stay safe, prayerful and faithful!