The Art of Lamenting

by MitchellRichards

Have you ever seen videos on TV or online of people in another country mourning the loss of a loved one?  Maybe you saw videos of families in the recent earthquakes mourning and crying out because of the loss they have experienced.  Now, have you ever been to a funeral in America?  It is totally different, right?  In just a quick observation, it seems people all over the world know how to mourn, but Americans see to it that we keep the grief inside of us.  In some countries they actually hire people to mourn in the streets during a funeral procession.  In America we try our hardest to keep our composure.  I’m not saying we don’t cry at funerals, but I am saying that the level of mourning taking place is drastically different.

As people, we have forgotten how to mourn, how to really grieve.

Luckily for me, I have always been one to show my emotions easily.  I am not afraid of a good cry in happy times and sad times.  There is a man that comes into my work every so often and he will occasionally bring his kid in with him.  I believe his son has Down’s Syndrome or something similar, and every time they walk in and I’m not busy I find myself watching them together.  I can tell that the father really cares for his son, and 99% of the time a tear will come to my eye.

When my grandfather died a few years back it was the first time anyone really close to me had ever died.  He was my grandpa, an old mechanic, WWII veteran, all around amazing guy.  We road tripped one summer to Arizona for a family reunion.  And I think I got my story telling skills from him.  All I have are great memories with my grandpa.  But after he died I was having a hard time dealing with it all.  After the funeral, I was trying to be the “strong” person by trying to compose myself and not show emotion.  This went on for weeks until I finally began something that I continue today:  I lamented.

Lamenting is simply to express grief.  It was after my grandfather died that I started to begin seriously writing a lot and I found that I was able to express my questions and fears that I was having in words.  I didn’t have a lot of super close friends at the time to share my pain with, luckily I do now, but I found myself writing a lot those days.  A couple of months later, my grandmother died and I wrote one of my favorite things I had ever written.

I guess what I’m saying is that we have all probably been through some sort of loss or tragedy in our lives.  And even if it is something simple like losing a contest or not getting the grades you want in school, we still need to lament these things.  We need to mourn the things that need to be mourned.  When we try to compose ourselves all of the time we are turning ourselves into emotionless machines but when we release our emotions we become even more human.  There is no shame I emotion, I often find myself tearing up in everyday activities because I see the beauty in all of it.  Just the other day my friends and I were hiking in the Wichita Mountains and it just dawned on me while we were on top of a mountain that these normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill people are the people that I care about most in my life.  If I were still bogged down with emotions that had been penned up, how would I have ever realized it.  I have dealt with a few seasons of depression in my life and have found that lamenting is one of the few ways to get out of my funk.  Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions.  Don’t be afraid to be angry.  Nowhere in my Bible does it say to not be frustrated with God, it doesn’t say to not be angry with Him, it doesn’t say to not ask questions.

I think when we lament to God, He becomes more real to us.  Even when we honestly lament to ourselves we become more real to us.  It sometimes takes time to break off the layers of stone that we have been applying for years trying to stay composed but once we do, once our hearts become softened, we are able to freely lament and ask the hard questions.

What questions do you have with God?  What are you angry about?

I encourage you to write down your feelings, I encourage you to express you human emotions to God; a God that is not human but knows your pains. David writes this in the Psalms, and it doesn’t really sound like your typical mushy gushy Bible verses:

God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere?  Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.  And you! Are you indifferent, above it all, leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?   We know you were there for our parents:  they cried for your help and you gave it; they trusted and lived a good life.  And here I am, a nothing – an earthworm, something to step on, to squash. Everyone pokes fun at me; they make faces at me, they shake their heads:  “Let’s see how God handles this one; since God likes him so much, let him help him!” And to think you were midwife at my birth, setting me at my mother’s breasts!  When I left the womb you cradled me; since the moment of birth you’ve been my God. Then you moved far away and trouble moved in next-door. I need a neighbor.  Herds of bulls come at me, the raging bulls stampede,  Horns lowered, nostrils flaring, like a herd of buffalo on the move. I’m a bucket kicked over and spilled, every joint in my body has been pulled apart. My heart is a blob of melted wax in my gut.  I’m dry as a bone, my tongue black and swollen. They have laid me out for burial in the dirt.  Now packs of wild dogs come at me; thugs gang up on me. They pin me down hand and foot, and lock me in a cage – a bag Of bones in a cage, stared at by every passerby.  They take my wallet and the shirt off my back, and then throw dice for my clothes.  You, God – don’t put off my rescue! Hurry and help me! Don’t let them cut my throat; don’t let those mongrels devour me.  If you don’t show up soon, I’m done for – gored by the bulls, meat for the lions. 22Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening.  Here in this great gathering for worship I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.  Down-and-outers sit at God’s table and eat their fill. Everyone on the hunt for God is here, praising him. “Live it up, from head to toe. Don’t ever quit!” From the four corners of the earth people are coming to their senses, are running back to God. Long-lost families are falling on their faces before him. God has taken charge; from now on he has the last word.  All the power-mongers are before him – worshiping! All the poor and powerless, too – worshiping! Along with those who never got it together – worshiping!  Our children and their children will get in on this As the word is passed along from parent to child. Babies not yet conceived will hear the good news – that God does what he says. (Psalm 22, The Message)

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