A (technical) lament (first attempt)

Posted: 9 July 2012 in Faith and Life

Have we forgotten how to mourn? Have we forgotten how to articulate a true lament? It is true that we mourn at the loss of loved ones—but that is mostly a private, inward looking affair that is sanctioned by our society. That is not what I am asking about. I am referring to the very public, very verbal kind of lament that addresses God—in anger at times—to ask “what the hell is going on here and what are you going to do about it?” I don’t think our society looks too kindly on this kind of lamenting for two reasons: one, we don’t really believe in God anymore (even those of us who say we do—we are mostly functional atheists); and two, we don’t want to come across as whiners or to be seen as weak and without the psychological resources to deal with the distressing facts of our world.

I want to learn to lament. I don’t know how, but I do know I am distressed about a number of things and I want to tell someone.

So… I googled “how to write a lament” (seriously) and found some useful tools—call them some rules of thumb—for lament writing based on how the ancient psalm writers did it. Since I am not skilled in lamenting, and since, like everyone of my generation, I am enamored with “technique”, I will use these “rules” to try to lay out my very first lament. Bear with me (or stop reading here).

My lament

1. Address to God. (In which the lamenter begins with a personal, relational address to God.)

It is not easy for me to address you about these things. I used to believe that a personal relationship with you was possible. Lately, I am not so sure. Still, take my feeble attempt here as evidence that I am trying. Strung between modernity and post-modernity as I am, I am left with no truth to cling to—no meta-narrative that explains everything. I have only my narrative and you are a key part of it. That will have to suffice for now.

I cannot prove to anyone’s satisfaction that you are there, so I will rest in choosing to believe. Were I to have a large hadron collider (LHC) that girdled the earth perhaps I could find in the post smash-up decay evidence of you. But I doubt it. More than likely I would need an LHC that spanned the solar system—or, better yet, the galaxy. Would that allow me to understand the latticework of the universe that is you? I would like to think so. Until then, I will just have to put two feet on the floor each morning and agree (again) to believe you are there and that you truly DO care when a sparrow falls—that you really HAVE counted the (few remaining) hairs on my head.

I am willing for you to be my opiate, my crutch. Thanks for not stopping to be there simply because I cannot sense you.

2. Complaint. (In which the lamenter lays out the cause of his/her distress—telling it “like it is”.)

Perhaps the foregoing does not give me the right to address you about these things but I will take that risk because I am distressed—sometimes beyond my ability to cope. Death feels like a better option sometimes, the gnawing is so deep.

How much longer am I going to have to look at pictures of children whose limbs have been blown off as they become collateral damage in wars designed to prop up my lifestyle? Hmm? Am I complicit? Then do away with me please. I am sick of drones and cluster munitions (yeah, we still have those around) and all the other hardware that fails to deliver the precision strikes that we used to pretend were possible but which we now know are not (the only difference now is that we don’t really give a damn anymore).

And how long is all this bullshit coming down from the “too big to fail” banks going to last. These institutions are vampiric and the people who run them disdainful of all of us. Are you going to let these blood suckers hold onto their power, their influence, their ability to drive businesses, homeowners and even entire cities into the dust? I mean, come on. BTW, this is just one example of the brokenness of ALL the institutions that are supposed to provide for the flourishing of us all. Bankers are just the latest villains but there are so many others and it is the lack of caring by all of these folks that is so damaging to our society.

Closer to home I want to know when we are all going to stop acting like spoiled brats and learn to listen to each other—to give a little. When are we going to get leaders that lead us instead of playing to our immaturity? When? When will we sit around the table and care enough to find the solutions that help everyone have enough? I am tired of trying to convince people of the value of doing conflict well.

And one more thing—when am I going to grow up? When am I going to yield my wants and fears to trust? I am so disgusted with being such a baby. Could you please save me from myself? I have no other recourse. I know, I know… The very fact that I add this little chunk of distress to the bigger stuff in the foregoing shows how narcissistic I have become. I am not going to claim it is some sickness but I am sick of it.

So, there are lots of other things but this is my first lament and I need to stop somewhere…

3. Affirmation of trust. (In which, despite the problematic situation, the lamenter expresses confidence in God’s faithfulness.)

The bottom line here is that we cannot get ourselves out of any of this and so I turn to you as our last/best/only hope. This is typical of one so enmeshed in our technique focused world. We believe—I believe—that if we just use our minds and our collective wisdom, we CAN get ourselves out of these things. I say I believe that but increasingly I am starting to doubt it.

Does my “confidence” sound half hearted? It no doubt does. It will take me some time to unlearn my trust in my own ingenuity and our collective technique. For now let me walk towards trust in you acknowledging that that trust is a “last resort” kind of thing.

We have—I have—wandered far from a place where I can easily come to you in this way. I trust that you are faithful…

But you are going to have to help my doubts that you are, in fact, faithful.

4. Petition. (In which the lamenter comes to the main point(s) and appeals to God to intervene and deliver.)

Part of me wants to laugh bitterly here because, having laid out my complaints, I am not even sure what to ask for now. Let me try this:

Please cause the drones to fall helplessly out of the sky.

Please drive the businesses that make all the a/m armament to bankruptcy and beyond.

Please collapse the economy that is built on or enables the mayhem that these things cause. (I realize—I think—what I am asking for and it know it is going to hurt me and mine a lot. So be it.)

Please give each uncaring banker/bureaucrat/businessman a vision of the effects of his/her decisions—the hard working mom who has lost her home through no fault of her own; the laid off worker whose job was outsourced/offshored; the city manager whose city is going under. Etc…

Please drive that vision so deeply into their psyche that they cannot sleep until they change.

Please show the people of my little town that we have a commonwealth to care for.

Please help us give up the need to get what we each narrowly and selfishly want.

Please shepherd me beyond my wants.

Please shepherd me beyond my fears.

5. Additional argument. (In which the lamenter gives God some additional motivation for acting.)

We need to be saved from ourselves. We need to be reeled in from our quest for autonomy. In the quiet moments of truth that we all face, reveal to us that we were not created to be apart from you. I am with Augustine on this one—despite all the holes we have “filled” in our knowledge of the universe, our biology, our minds, and everything else, there is still have a God-shaped hole in all of us.

So… you made us that way. Save us from our desire to be that which we are not: gods of our own making. We suck at it and it is just too exhausting.

You NEED to save us because you did not make us to be this way and we are destroying ourselves.

I am destroying myself.

If you choose not to save us then I have to ask why you made us in the first place. It comes down to that.

6. Assurance of being heard. (In which the lamenter demonstrates the conviction that God has indeed heard his/her cry for help and will indeed act on his/her behalf.)

I am going to call on some “outside” help on this one. My mom was convinced you heard her when she called out. I loved and trusted my mom. I am going to go through her and, based on my trust in her, I am going to trust you. I believe, through her, that you have heard.

Just like the above… I know I need to own this conviction myself but, for now, please accept her as my proxy.

7. Hymn or blessing. (In which the lamenter moves into a blessing of the one who was formerly accused of not acting on behalf of justice).

Oh God (I name you with trepidation) you are deep within me and I don’t want you to leave. The nightmares of doubt may not recede but behind them you will stand.

You are a solid place in a “swiftly tilting” world.

You are the tissue that connects me to sanity and meaning.

You are the fundamental particle—the key to understanding it all—that we have not yet “discovered”.

You are the giver from whom we seem unwilling to accept the finest gift (please keep trying).

And tomorrow, if I can rise, I will put two feet on the floor and continue my quest to believe in you and to follow you.


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