Words pierce like a weapon. The comments crisscross via phone slashing her. In the middle of a seminary campus walks a woman with quick stride and a crushed heart. When we talk she’s stunned (or embarrassed) the words still ring in her ears days later. “You are allowed to have days like this one.” I say. I mean it; you are allowed to have hard days when your insides ache.
I thought of the need to lament disconnection whenever it happens. We’re wired for connection and any infraction is worth mourning, no matter how small.
A photo of goblets swollen with spirits triggers another’s appetite for a drink. It’s not what he expected as he scrolled through the innocuous Instagram feed. But social media can amplify our insensitivity, our ignorance or our blind spots. And now all he wants is a drink – or six.
I mourned in the moment. I stopped to lament our addictions, his and mine and yours. I certainly lamented the triggers. Oh, how I want the Great Doctor to heal us all soon, to pluck thorns from our tender flesh now. In the meantime I wish we’d be more mindful and kind, maybe set a few less (unintended) landmines for one another.
Word came late on Friday night that a son, only nine years old, was killed in a car crash. A distracted truck driver slammed into their car. A family was shattered; a church community stood in shock. But then I heard of the man who stayed on the highway’s shoulder with the son’s expired body through dusk and into the dark. He kept watch for the father who sat in a hospital waiting room desperate for word on his wife, his daughter. His vigil embodied love and lament.
This Friday night I contemplated again the cruel oxymoron of Good Friday. I remember Jesus crucified and now another son extinguished. Showered in sorrow, tears were the only things that made any kind of salted sense. Hearts bruised, pummeled by irrevocable loss. Yes, lament the death of sons. Lament car accidents. Not to would be to cut against the grain of our humanity.
There is a refugee with child. She’s alone, her kin across the sea in unknown crevices of a broken country. Here she will give birth without women holding her hands, speaking in her mother tongue. The apartment is sparse, so is the support for her and the child to crown soon. Refugee, someone who has left and lost so much already; someone only half-welcomed here.
Those men and women, their resilient children, exist on margins just beyond our sightline. My friend, who knows them as neighbors, talks of injustice like a heavy haze socking in the entire neighborhood. How can they even breath or gasp for hope? I lament places ripped apart by war; I lament the beleaguered diaspora with too few friends. I lament our anemic hospitality that too often leaves immigrants saddled with immediate debt and piles of lack. Once again I’m aching at the momentary recognition of what is not right.
I don’t know what else to do but lament these small (and some devastating) losses, all encountered in one week’s time. I’m bruised by some; scarred by others. What I realize is not one can be ignored or denied. All hurt, all remind me of how the world isn’t set right (yet). Each instance invites me to acknowledge a loss, to grieve and feel its pain. So I lean into lament – everyday.
Choose joy, they say. But joy without lament is too thin for me. In order to inhabit the expansive capacity of joy, I must experience the pain that shapes joy’s outer limits. I need the valley and the peak, the absence and the presence, dying and resurrecting. Before joy there are lost airliners and capsized ferries, a ruptured appendix and a relapse into depression, another lost job or another miscarriage, there are pastors who leave too soon and angry words between friends and the unrelenting urge for another drink or smoke or (fill in the blank). I must mourn; there’s no easy escape for me.
Full-bodied joy is predicated on lament. So I choose everyday lament.
[Previously posted on A Deeper Story.]