Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Legacy of Lament, and an Invitation from a Kids' Song

Much of today's world is cause for lament. With events surrounding Ferguson, Missouri there is abundant pain among African-Americans who want the lives of their children valued by society. Property and business owners mourn and pick up the pieces in the wake of violence. People all over the country pray for peace, even locally in Tacoma. People cry out in anguish, "how long must this anguish continue? Can't the system change? Can't someone, even God, intervene?"

It is natural for to be uncomfortable with anguish, both in ourselves, and in others. It's tempting to run away from the pain of injustices. It's tempting to tell others how they're supposed to feel or act. Whereas the church has always possessed a prophetic word to be with people on the margins of society, the church also holds in its hands the witness of lament. Many of the Psalms of the Bible and some of the writings of the prophets share some very raw emotions in the midst of suffering. The prophet Habakkuk asks a question that is familiar to the anguish of this day. "How long, Lord?"

What is important about these laments is that the expression of suffering is never minimized or diminished. It is a recognition of human emotion in the wake of suffering. It honors the disorientation of suffering, and names the presence of God. It recognizes the loneliness of suffering, yet also offers invitation back to return as a child of God, to break bread with sisters and brothers, to be loved and to share that love with the world. There is not a timeline or deadline, but only invitation.

How do children see the anguish of the world? So often their anguish is seen as a behavioral problem to be solved. Lament doesn't look at pain as something to be solved, but as something to be expressed in a spirit of openness. With that openness, maybe the love of God can enter in and bring healing. It is only a maybe, because none of this can ever be demanded. Invitation matters.

Steven Page wrote a song for children called "Bad Day." It is a profound understanding of lament and invitation, of presence on the margin, and an opportunity to reorient toward love. It doesn't demand or lecture in the midst of anguish and pain, but invites and loves.

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