Last year the church that I attend in Charlottesville, Trinity Presbyterian, had a sermon series on the book of Lamentations. At first I was curious and a bit skeptical — isn’t “lament” just a biblical word for being sad? Will studying this Old Testament book be fruitful? Of course, I was wrong. Lament is integral to healing and is present throughout the Bible. After a semester of orienting our worship toward lamentation, I began to see the beauty and difficulty of lamenting.
One of my favorite parts of this process was a song I was introduced to, “How Long?” by Bifrost Arts. It's on an album of lamentation which cries out for wholeness in a broken world.
How long? Will you turn your face away?
This is the first line of “How Long?” and it honestly and unapologetically calls out to God, mirroring the Psalms of lament. God wants our honest and open hearts.
Over the past year, I've encountered brokenness, sadness, and injustice in the world and have felt hopeless in its face. I’ve learned that lamentation requires that we name the hurt and cry to God for help. For me, this often means listening to others and learning from people around me, so I can join in their struggles for justice.
I took a class this past semester about the history of race and real estate in the United States, and it exposed me to a part of our nation's past I haven't encountered before, one of racism and quiet, insidious exclusion. My after-class conversations with another Fellow, Lindsay, lamented the remnants of past injustice and the reality of our broken world. We ended each conversation with more questions than answers, but in this small way we began to lament.
This wasn't easy, but we continually tried to understand our place in this pain and in its healing.
Amen, Jesus, come!
“How Long?” ends with the repeated refrain, “Amen, Jesus, come!” When we sing it at Trinity, we start quietly and end with powerful drums and bright tambourines. It gives me chills every time we sing it, because this movement reflects how we must lament. We may begin in fear and sadness, but we end with hope and faith.
As I approach the pain and brokenness in this world, it’s easy to become hopeless. The relationships we’re in, the families we love, and the systems we’re a part of are all broken and we see this -- and feel this -- deeply. After some conversations with Lindsay after class, I could only say, “Amen, Jesus, come!”
I don't know how to approach all the pain in our world. There’s too much of it for one person to bear (like Ms. May in The Secret Life of Bees), but it’s our job to enter into our own and otherss’ suffering as we cry for Jesus’ will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So, while I begin this lifetime of joyful and hopeful lamenting, I can work to return His creation to wholeness with the hope that Jesus will one day wipe every tear from our eye. He is making all things new. In Him alone is our hope.