“When people listen to you cry and lament, and look at you with love, it’s like they are holding the baby of you.” ~ Anne Lamott
Before my aging coffeemaker has sighed its morning offering, I have already sung a lament or two.
Not for me a cheery whistle and sports page to start the day!
All is not right and I can’t forget it, not with the news as close as my i-Phone. Not with the cruelty, stupidity, incompetence, the arrogance of the “have’s” and the abuse of the “have-nots,” fresh-printed and tossed on my driveway, still warm.
I’m always caught by surprise, as if I were the world’s author and my words move off the page when I’m not looking. So, with my morning shower, it begins.
But I’m not very good at lament. I become what I despise somewhere in the middle.
Psalms of Lament
It’s amazing they are in the Bible at all, the poems, the songs, the prophet’s choking cries. With blunt, sometimes blood-thirsty honesty, they grab God by the collar and refuse to let him go.
Deliver me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked….I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears…How long, O LORD: Will you forget me forever?….Do not put me to shame, O LORD, for I call on you; let the wicked be put to shame; let them go dumbfounded to Sheol…Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them…In your faithfulness put an end to them.*
Is God really okay with unfiltered fury, with tear-choked thoughts only our pillows can hear?
Yes. Oh, yes. Let me introduce you to the One who will not flinch.
The psalmists and prophets complain without fear. In their verses we watch wide-eyed as predators pounce, close friends betray, enemies mock, sufferings loom, vengeance demanded when God seems suspiciously silent.
But what good is lament, when each day brings new material? This is the surprise–these psalms are for worship, safe enough to chant them in the most sacred of places.
They serve as a template for healing, they guide our slipping feet to more dependable ground. God leans forward, attentively listening until every complaint is exhausted, and then whispers hope when we think there is none.
When I thought, ‘My foot is slipping’, your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:17-19).
The psalms of lament give voice to early morning angst too risky to share, and lead to an embrace too wonderful to miss.
*Psalms 3, 6, 13, 31, 35, 54
Have you prayed the psalms of lament?
In our series, An Alphabet Adagio, we are savoring the story of the Bible, our story, alphabetically. You can subscribe to e-mail above so you won’t miss a letter. Next: M is for Mythbusters.