The Courage to Lament

Before reading the rest of this, you have to promise me that you won’t read this and then use it to feel better or worse about yourself.  Please use these words as a possible new context you could try out and see if it makes a difference.

You have a huge heart.  We all do.  Your capacity to feel and to love is endless.  Sometimes the depth of that ocean is frightening.  When tragedy or heartbreak happens, we feel like we can only touch the edge of the water… or else we will be lost in it.  And tragedy and heartbreak surrounds us.  Is it any wonder we feel numb, disconnected, and guilty.  We have simply been trying to protect our hearts.

What would happen to us if we were really able to experience the suffering in the world, in our country, in our city, and, yes, even in our home?  Who could bear that much heartbreak, anger, and hopelessness?

lamentations

This very human desire to protect oneself from being with the suffering of others (and sometimes our own suffering, for how can anyone suffer and we not suffer?) has limited our ability to end the suffering.

And that is the deepest cry of our hearts.  If we could heal the problems of the world, keep children from dying of hunger and violence… If we could do this, we would do it in a heartbeat.  I know we would.  Because I know you.

But suffering endures.  It is insurmountable.  It has come, it is here, and it will continue.

And if we really got in touch with that, our hearts would break.

At least that’s what we think.  That’s what we are told when taught to take care of ourselves.  That is the prevailing view we have.  It’s why we scroll quickly past that news item of that tragedy that brings tears to our eyes just seeing the title.

So when presented with heartbreak and tragedy, we can only sit at the water’s edge while those experiencing it are drowning.  We give money to a charity that helps with that issue.  We say, “if you need anything let me know.”  We bring a casserole or hotdish to the family’s kitchen table.  We sign a petition, contact our legislators.  We may volunteer or even dedicate our lives and work to resolving these issues.

But don’t get too close to the pain.  You wouldn’t be any good for anyone if you get consumed by it.

What if there was another way?

What if we could tap into the well of our hearts and really be with that person or community in the midst of their suffering?

What if their tears could be our tears?

What if their anger could be our anger?

What if their needs became our needs?

What if we could see the source of the suffering from their view?

Friends, this is an invitation to join me in contemplating a spiritual practice called Lament.  To lament is to passionately express grief, sorrow or anger.  I’m not saying to jump in the deep end right away, but I want you to discover what your edges are.  How far will you go grieving with someone who is grieving?  How long will you mourn with someone who is mourning?  Would it even be possible to suffer the hunger, isolation, racism, poverty, etc., that is around us when our lives are so rich?

What are you most afraid of if you were to truly sink to the depths of despair with someone?

Without trying to fix it or somehow make it better?  (Because this is what we usually do.)

Think on this.  Please share any discoveries you have.  If you find other resources to expand this area of examination, please share those as well.

And if you find yourself being ready and willing to go deeper in the water, do that.  And please share what that is like for you.

Much love,

NMB

grief

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