Reclaiming Lament

Sabbatical – Day 3

“A lament or lamentation is a passionate expression of grief, often in musicpoetry, or song form. The grief is most often born of regret, or mourning. Laments can also be expressed in a verbal manner in which participants lament about something that they regret or someone that they have lost, and they are usually accompanied by wailing, moaning and/or crying.[1] Laments constitute some of the oldest forms of writing, and examples exist across human cultures.” – from Wikipedia

Lament is found throughout scripture. We find it in the Psalms, as well as in the other poetic literature of the Bible.

The 13th Psalm, which I wrote about yesterday, is a classic form of lament. “How long, O Lord.”

Somewhere, as our culture has developed, we have lost our ability (or maybe our willingness…or both) to lament.

In Jewish tradition, when someone was grieving, they would sit in “shiva.” Shiva was a 7-day period, following the burial, where those who loved the one who died would be in a time of public grief. It was a time of lamentation, and sometimes despair. The point of shiva was to have a formal time to talk about loss, and to accept the comfort of others.

In our culture, we don’t like grief. We talk about “getting over” grief, as if it’s some obstacle that we must overcome.

But grief is not an obstacle. It is a part of our journey.

Today is the day after the terrible school shootings in Texas. And already, politicians are assigning blame. People are looking for causes, and the special interests are preparing for the fight over guns. We are glossing over grief. We are resisting the human need to walk the journey of grief, sorrow and sadness.

When we resist shiva, when we jump to solutions, we are resisting the need to walk through our grief. Instead, we are walking around it. And I fear that when we avoid grief in this way, we never find that place within ourselves that motivates us to keep the event from happening again.

We have gone straight from the event…to the blame…to the tactics. If we allow ourselves to grieve, we go from pain…to questions…to wondering…to motivation.

I sat up for a long time last night, thinking about what happened in Texas. I thought about and prayed for the parents, who sent their kids off to school yesterday, not knowing that they would not see them again. I prayed for the survivors in the school, and for their teachers. I prayed for the wounded. I prayed for the first responders, and I prayed for the lives cut too short.

Yes, I want solutions. I want answers. I don’t ever want this to happen again. And truth be told, I want significant restrictions on who can own weapons like the one that took these lives.

But first, I think we should allow ourselves to feel the raw grief, pain, anger, frustration and sadness that follows this event. These emotions are real. Don’t sidestep them. Walk through them. And as we do, I pray that we can find the motivation, the courage and the energy to prevent this from happening again. Ever.

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