Lament

Lament

I posted the following on my Facebook page in September, 2016.  Someone reposted it today.  I feel like I could have written it today….

Lament.

“Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.” Psalm 5:1

For months, I’ve read many posts about issues ranging from gay marriage to the presidential election to the state of the United Methodist Church to whose lives matter (and, apparently, whose lives don’t). And, for the most part, I’ve remained silent.

Frankly, I’m a coward. If I take a stand, on almost any issue, I know it will outrage and offend some, and I will be attacked. While I’m sure I have “friends” who will support whatever position I might take, I also know I will lose the support of others – including men and women for whom I’ve been, or am currently, their pastor. I guess I haven’t been willing to take that risk.It’s just social media.

And, yet, ideas/opinions/perspectives/positions on social media seem to spread like wild fire – spinning quickly out of control. Standing for one thing seems to automatically imply being the enemy of something else.  When did we become so venomous?

So, while I am still a coward, and I still hesitate to lay all of my cards on the table, I will publicly admit my lament.

I lament for our fallen and broken world.

I lament for the families of young black men who have died unjustly. I lament their loss and their grief. I also lament for the many honorable law enforcement officers who feel unfairly vilified.

I lament for the deep and widening divisions in our country, as I see exemplified in this election. I lament the ugliness I hear from the mouths of people we are called to trust and respect. I lament the fear and uncertainty I feel for our future.

I lament the millions of refugees, who have lost everything and need new beginnings. I lament for immigrants – legal and illegal – who leave their homes and travel dangerous journeys, risking their lives, in order to find work to support their families.

I lament the terror we carry in our hearts as a result of night-club shootings and pressure cooker bombs.

I lament our fear and mistrust of one another.

I lament racism.

I lament the state of my church, which is so deeply divided.

I lament for those who have felt, and still feel, excluded and condemned by the Church because of their sexual orientation.

I lament for those who have been labeled bigots or narrow-minded because they are conservative, and who sincerely want to obey God’s Word.

I lament our inability to love and respect one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I lament the myriad ways we vilify those we disagree with.

I lament for our inability to be civil, to speak respectfully to one another, to disagree without disparagement – that we seem incapable of bringing our issues to a common table and seek solutions rather than assign blame.

I lament my own cowardice – fearing to take stands and to pay the consequences.

What follows your “but”?

What follows your “but”?

Somewhere, along the way, I started thinking of the word “but” as an erasure.  Add “but” to any statement, and everything before it disappears…

“I think you’re really great, but...”

“I really appreciate the gesture, but…”

“Thanks for the kind offer, but…”

“I know you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but…”

“I’m sorry, but…”

Often, as soon as the “but” shows up, you know the jab is coming…

“…, but you’re just not my type.”

“…, but it’s just not good enough.”

“…, but I’m not interested.”

“… but I think you’re a jerk.”

“… but you deserved it.”

Etc., etc., etc.  “But” always seems to be followed by criticism, complaint, or rejection.

I need to confess, I’ve been saying a lot of “but” prayers lately.

“Lord, I know you are good, but…”

“Lord, I know you are in control, but…”

“Lord, I know I should trust you, but…”

It occurred to me, this morning, that the Biblical writers often reversed the “but.”  Often, in Scripture, the “but” follows the negative, instead of the positive.  Throughout the Psalms, for example, the negative precedes the “but,” followed by hope and trust in God…

“My enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.  But I trust in your unfailing love.” (Psalm 13:4-5)

“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

“For I hear many whispering, ‘Terror on every side!’  They conspire against me and plot to take my life.  But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.'” (Psalm 31:13-14)

“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.” (Psalm 32:10)

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (Psalm 73:26)

I’ve always appreciated that Scripture allows for lament.  Lament is a raw, honest, human form of prayer.  Lament cries out to God in anger, pain, anguish and despair.  Lament, often, is a complaint to God, against God, about perceived unfairness.  Lament, sometimes, even blames God for the complaint.

There are times, we all need to lament.  I’m thankful God is graciously willing and able to receive our laments, even when they are less than kind, respectful, or faith-filled, without holding our complaints against us.

In the wake of recent events, I’ve been lamenting a lot.  “But,” my laments have been mostly ranting and raving, without a lot of faith or hope.  What my laments have been missing is the properly placed “but.”

“…, but I will trust in you.”