PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Time To Lament

“O Lord, my God and Savior, by day and night I cry to you. Let my prayer enter into your presence; incline your ear to my lamentation.” — Psalm 88:1-2

Good Friday is my favorite service in the church year and one of the reasons is because it is a service of lament.

We as a society don’t really like to lament — or at least not corporately. We like to blame, or deflect, or deny, or minimize, or defend, or complain. But that is not lamenting.

Lamenting is, according to the dictionary, a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. I would say that lamenting for a Christian is owning your pain, attesting to it and lifting it up to God, making a visible acknowledgement through word and sometimes action that expresses your internal brokenness to God.

Culturally, we tend to give lamentation short shrift. We want quick solutions to problems or else we want to stuff our grief down so we don’t have to deal with it, or we don’t have to deal with the pain of others when they express their hurt.

It’s like the latest Facebook craze — people are posting their photo from their senior year to “show support” for this year’s seniors, who have lost so much of their senior spring and graduation. I have loved the photos — both to see the style, the era and how people have changed. But this doesn’t do anything for this year’s seniors except maybe remind them again of what you may have had that they are losing. Post the photo for fun, but let the kids grieve and lament. Seeing someone else’s senior picture doesn’t make it better.

Sometimes, we just need to lament, to cry out, to feel our pain. By doing that, we are able to name the hurt, lance the wound and only then begin to move forward, knowing that this pain is real, is tangible and impacts us.

Good Friday is a chance to do that corporately, to feel the weight of our sin but also the results of human sin and to spend some time focusing purely on the brokenness of the world without moving on immediately or trying to make it better. By sitting together in our grief.

This year, we won’t have a chance to do that, at least not together. But that doesn’t mean we can’t lament — and that we can’t share one another’s laments.

My friend, Jacqueline Busse, shared a wonderful idea on Facebook. Jacqueline is the author of the amazing book “Love Without Limits,” which you all should order from Fortress Press and read during this time of Great Separation. Seriously. It is amazing. Anyway, I asked her if I could use her idea, and I have her permission.

She asked people to send her their laments and she would pray them aloud. And today, on this Good Friday, I am asking you to do the same with me.

Send me your laments. What is it that is heavy on your heart? What are you grieving? Isolation? Loss of a job, seeing your grandkids, a longed for trip or concert, fear of how you will pay your bills, a sense of security, a chance to get a massage or go to the park, a wedding, the death of a loved one or not being able to hug someone you hold dear?

In Jacqueline’s words, “ COVID19 hasn’t in-fected everyone, but it has a-ffected everyone.”

Some days all the loss feels too much to bear and so today, I am offering to help bear it with you. It will allow me to feel connected with my beloved parishioners, friends and family and you to know that someone is listening — both God, to whom I will bring your lament and me, as your pastor or friend.

So please, write one thing you’re grieving or lamenting right now and send it to me in an email, or write it in the Facebook or blog comments or send it via Facebook messenger. It can be anything. I will not judge — sometimes it is just helpful to name the hurt, no matter how large or small.

What I will do with your laments is spend time on Good Friday and Holy Saturday in solitude, living out the words of Psalm 88, lifting up your hurt and pain to God’s ears. I will say your lament out loud and pray for you by name.

I will use the prayer Jacqueline offered up in her post. I will say:

“God, may (your name’s) lament be heard.
May (your name) know that they’re loved.
May (your name) know peace during this pandemic. May (your name) be free from fear, anxiety and worry.”

We are in isolation. But we are not alone.

I want to listen to you today, even if I can’t worship with you in the presence of God. So send me your laments and know that it is OK to have them, to name them and to bring them to God.

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