The Place of Lament

Small black ink lament canvasOver the last week or so I have noticed a rather constant state of fatigue – a weariness of both body and soul. I initially tried to fight it off with a nap here and there thinking that some extra rest might bring the restoration and refreshment my body needed. The extra sleep hasn’t really helped. And during my Sabbath time over the last 24 hours, I discerned some clues as to the source of my fatigue. It’s actually pretty simple: I’m sad.

This morning as I sat on my back deck I loaded up my new iPod touch (new things typically pick my spirit up) and listened to Rob Bell’s talk on “Learning to Lament in a Culture of Denial.”  It was a talk based upon the first chapter of the book of Lamentations and it was exactly what I needed to hear today. Rob’s thesis is that we live in a culture of denial, a culture that goes to great lengths to cover up and mask over the painful edge of life and yes even faith. The antidote to denial is lament and Rob shared some great thoughts from Lamentations 1 and the practice of the Hebrew community in exile, along with thoughts from contemporary writers like Peter Rollins and Kathleen O’Connor. While I cannot remember the exact quote Rob used from Kathleen O’Connor, it went something like this – simple acts of lament expose and open us to name things, to make them visible and to remind us of the elephant in the room.

My soul fatigue began with a conversation with a newly married couple who were filing for divorce. I grieved hearing the story emanating from South Carolina about the governor’s unfaithfulness. I watched the heartbreaking news from Iran get bumped off the airwaves and media by the death of a pop icon, a tragic fusion of musical genius and a freakshowish personal life. My heart has been heavy as I have watched someone close to me be taken for granted, disrespected and unappreciated.

It was good to name some of these things in the presence of God today and while there were no quick responses or easy fixes offered, I do know I was heard.

The second thing I did today was to listen to a psalm of lament. Music speaks to me in powerful ways and God has used U2’s music to speak into my soul in many different ways. U2 is always diligent in putting their tracks together on their recordings and they typically pay special attention to the final track.”No Line on the Horizon” is no exception. The final cut is a song entitled “Cedars of Lebanon” and is a haunting, minor-keyed melody with a lyrical bass line by Adam Clayton and some amazing understated percussion work by Larry Mullin Jr. And the voice of the poet cries out:

“Yesterday I spent asleep
Woke up in my clothes in a dirty heap
Spent the night trying to make a deadline
Squeezing complicated lives into a simple headline

I have your face here in an old Polaroid
Tidying the children’s clothes and toys
You’re smiling back at me, I took the photo from the fridge
Can’t remember what then we did

I haven’t been with a woman, it feels like for years
Thought of you the whole time, your salty tears
This shitty world sometimes produces a rose
The scent of it lingers and then it just goes

Return the call to home…

The worst of us are a long drawn out confession
The best of us are geniuses of compression
You say you’re not going to leave the truth alone
I’m here ‘cos I don’t want to go home

Child drinking dirty water from the river bank
Soldier brings oranges he got out from a tank
I’m waiting on the waiter, he’s taking a while to come
Watching the sun go down on Lebanon

Return the call to home…

Now I’ve got a head like a lit cigarette
Unholy clouds reflecting in a minaret
You’re so high above me, higher than everyone
Where are you in the Cedars of Lebanon?

Choose your enemies carefully ‘cos they will define you
Make them interesting ‘cos in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friends.”

The world is simply not the way it should be. And sometimes it is important to name those things, bring them into the presence of God and simply but powerfully lament.

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