In the midst of chaos I am longing for a small spot of order . . . So have taken to organizing bookshelves whenever I have a couple of hours at home (I’m sure there are decent and deep psychiatric reasons, but it is a pretty useful coping mechanism, and probably a good sign to have the energy to begin to do so). Hardly anyone dares to come to our house anymore. As contacts we are supposed to practice “social distancing” . . . A bizarre and unexpected opportunity to pull hundreds of books and years of dust and pen caps and random scraps of paper and broken flash lights and all the other detritus of life that accumulates on any horizontal surface from the bookshelves (we have many). In the process this morning I came across a book by Michael Card called “A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching out to God in the Lost Language of Lament.” Ruth Ann Batstone gave it to me a few months ago but I had not opened it yet. He opens the first chapter: “Before there were drops of rain, human tears fell in the garden, and that was when lament began.” His premise is that the Bible is full of the songs of complaint, frustration, sorrow, even anger; because the path to God is a “tearful trail.”
When I step back from the science, the advocacy, the planning, the medicine . . . I am left with the hollow-hearted shock that Jonah has died, and that more will follow. And I am not here to justify or explain that, rather to acknowledge and experience it. So I want to copy here a paragraph from this book’s forward by Eugene Peterson:
It is also necessary as a witness, a Jesus-witness to the men and women who are trying to live a life that avoids suffering at all costs, including the cost of their own souls. For at least one reason why people are uncomfortable with tears and the sight of suffering is that it is a blasphemous assault on their precariously maintained . . spirituality of the pursuit of happiness. They want to avoid evidence that things are not right with the world as it is—without Jesus (and Job, David, and Jeremiah), without love, without faith, without sacrifice. It is a lot easier to keep the American faith if they don’t have to look into the face of suffering, if they don’t have to listen to our laments, if they don’t have to deal with our tears.
So learning the language of lament is not only necessary to restore Christian dignity to suffering and repentance and death, it is necessary to provide a Christian witness to a world that has no language for and is therefore oblivious to the glories of wilderness and cross.
I hope that many have the grace to weep and pray with Bundibugyo, and so discover the wilderness where God’s presence flames.