A Lament for My Community

A year ago this month the Lord spoke to me about "Embrace."  I decided to go through my days embracing the people, situations, and opportunities that presented themselves.  It turns out that this posture has led to me having to embrace a lot of pain- my own pain and brokenness, the pain of my friends, and the pain of my city.  In learning to embrace, I have been learning a lot about lament and mourning.  In my attempt to obey the call to embrace, I have found the Scriptures rich with lament and mourning that is raw and open before the Lord.  These passages have become my comfort and guide and my permission to cry out in a world that tempts me to numb, distract, and fake my feelings. 

I share here a lament I wrote for my city:

My Lament:

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A Time for Mourning

Sorrow is underrated in our culture. We don’t like to be sorrowful and try to avoid it like the plague. When sorrow hits us and we truly feel regret for something we did, or we are grieving because of something that happened to us, our goal is to get past it and move forward as soon as possible. Nobody likes to live with sorrow. We would much rather have joy in our lives.

I've been doing some study in the book of James, and I ran across this startling verse: "Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom" (James 4:9). Talk about a buzzkill. What are we supposed to do with that. Our natural response is probably to ask “Why?”

Why would anybody want to deliberately stop laughing and start mourning? Isn’t laughter the best medicine and the perfect way to deal with our present troubles? Didn’t James himself say in the opening to his letter that we are to “count it all joy” when we encounter trials? Yes he did, but apparently James believes the path to that joy comes not through laughter, but through sorrow. It's taken me a while for this to sink in, but I think I know what he means.

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Glad Tidings and Great Mourning

A daughter of a friend of mine passed away this month. Since then I have been acutely aware of those who are mourning this season. People I normally don’t think of much have been coming to mind---my sister’s friend who lost her husband, my friend Kari for whom this will be her first Christmas without her mom. Last year I met my sister’s friend on Christmas Eve and now he is dead--leaving behind a wife my age and a small son. 

Kizzy is getting through Christmas without her husband and another friend too because of a divorce.  Others are mourning job losses and being far from home.  And now today, millions of students mourn the defeat of the Dream Act--a law that would make a way for people raised in the United States to earn their legal residency by going to college or serving in the military. After ten years of work, advocacy, and the bill passing the House of Representatives, we missed the vote by five votes. I feel disappointed and sad.  I feel my friends’ grief and loneliness.

It is awful to be surrounded by rejoicing and parties and festivity when you are grieving and mourning.  I have wondered how my friends could possibly relate to the Christmas season this year. Yet, it was in the Christmas Story itself that I found words of mourning, and so somehow of comfort. Matthew’s gospel recounts the Escape to Egypt when Jesus parents fled to another country. As they left, Herod was leaving a wake of destruction and death. Matthew quotes the prophet Jeremiah to describe the scene:

                A voice is heard in Ramah,

                Weeping and great mourning,

                Rachel weeping for her children

                And refusing to be comforted

                Because they are no more. 

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Grief and Mourning Turned Upside Down...

A friend sent me the following note in response to a post I wrote on Beliefnet as a tribute to my mother on the first anniversary of her death. I wanted to share Julya's wise and practical thoughts on dealing with grief and mourning. Julya writes...

I had the privilege of meeting up with you for the first time in nearly 20 years just two weeks ago. When we met up you were remarking about being in the middle of the first anniversary of your parents tragic and untimely deaths and how they were less than 3 weeks apart. You said,..."The month of April is always going to suck!." I know it does now-but here's a little uncanny advice (from me to you)...It's going to take a lot of your inner strength but you can do this and maybe spread it to your siblings or other relatives and friends. 
Each year slowly try to make April the greatest month of the year by celebrating the lives of your parents separately and together. Some examples: If your dad loved chocolate chip cookies-bake dozens and send them to those who knew it. Include a note remembering him that day. If your mom was a fan of a certain musical group, make a CD and send it to friends and family with a note reminiscing about her air guitar abilities. Then play it really loud and dance around the house. If your parents loved the beach, take your husband on a romantic date with a picnic to the sand and water like your parents would have done. Maybe you can have an annual dinner. Not a pity party but a celebration of their lives with your siblings, family, friends and order in what they would have liked-Chinese, pizza, whatever and enjoy. 
Try to turn a negative into a positive. Mom was a nurse, so send roses to a nurse (any nurse-anonymously) thanking her for her hard work in memory of your mom. Your dad was a New York City firefighter, so send a cake to a firehouse for the crew to share with an anonymous note for them to celebrate a brothers life and their own. Don't let April consume you with grief-as time passes good things will occur in this month again. Your children could marry in the month of April, your future grand children could be born, you could be named to the NY Times best sellers list!...Make April a good Month for Mom, Dad, you and yours.
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