In Christian culture there’s difficult Biblical qualities we joke about being painful, like patience. “Don’t pray for patience or you’ll get a whole bunch of waiting ahead of you, hahahahaha….” ha. ha. But something big in the Bible that we try to completely hide away and forget even exists is lament. I don’t think I’ve heard a message on lament in….. *crickets* *looks at watch*…. nope, never.
We prefer to think about the fruit of the spirit is love joy and peace, and God works things together for good, and we don’t grieve like those with no hope, and the joy of the Lord is my strength. We like to skip to the “happily ever after” in the Bible stories, the red sea parting and the restoring doublefold and the resurrection – not the centuries of slavery or losing everything as a pawn in a supernatural contest or the crucifixion. We don’t want to sit in that place.
And Abby Norman‘s new book “You Can Talk to God Like That” is a breath of fresh air for the church and the world and for me.
I’m only half way through so far, reading about lamenting to God and lamenting in community, and it’s reminding me that moments and seasons of lament are okay, and even spiritual. It doesn’t have to be all happy happy joy joy.
Here’s one piece that drew me in, where I’ve seen individuals in my own life embody this with and for me:
When it is too hard to hope, that is OK; your community can hope for you. When it is too hard to believe that the light will come in the morning, you don’t have to. You can have someone else hold your hope for a while. Or your faith, or your anger if you know you should be angry but are just too tired. This is why we recite the creeds together, why we take time in church to chant all at once about what we believe. We believe in the Holy Spirit. We believe in the virgin birth. It is a reminder that when all of it is too much, there are other people who can hang on. When someone else is tired, it can be your turn again, like the way the trumpet section of the marching band can hold the long note forever. Lamenting in a community gives us more space to feel whatever we need to feel, to say whatever we need to say, while other people hold our life and our society together for us. Communal lament teaches us that we don’t have to hold the whole world in our hands, because God does.Abby Norman, in “You Can Talk to God Like That”
Choosing to sit with the times and seasons of grief, of weeping, of anguish instead of brushing it to the side, that’s where we can really fully embrace the times and seasons of rejoicing and laughing and celebration. Limiting and dampening our emotions isn’t a big win. And I’m thankful for voices speaking to that, especially amidst the whole COVID thing, but really in general. If any of us have been waiting for permission, for reassurance that our faith isn’t any less when we’re not okay, this can be that. The door is open.
I’m honored I could be part of the book launch team, and I recommend you check out her site or her book or just try talking to God “like that”, whatever that looks like for you today.