| Psalm 77.4-6
“Are You listening God?
You’re preventing me from getting sleep;
I am troubled and have no words.
I think about what’s happened in the past and today.
I’ve stayed up all night strumming my guitar trying to find words for my heart to sing.”
I’m a singer-songwriter. Not necessarily a good one, but I, and most children for that matter, fit the definition: We sing songs we write.
Some songs are extemporaneous: born alongside a specific moment in history only to fade into silence with the memory of that moment, never again to be heard.
Some songs are years-long in the making, usually inspired by life experience or the romanticized ideal. [And what a gift when the two meet!]
Shortly into my 30s I reached a milestone in adulthood. I was suddenly more aware of people’s troubles, including my own. Of course I knew sooner or later everyone had trouble, and some more than others, but I was unaware that some people’s burden was heavy and permanent.
This epiphany was rather embarrassing.
Jokes I’d previously made about hard life situations were no longer funny. They were stupid and inappropriate.
Speaking carelessly about the life experiences I never had was proof I was immature and unseasoned. I used to think the silence from the 40/50 year olds meant they didn’t get what I was saying. I was the one who didn’t get it.
When I began to see the heaviness and permanence of people’s trouble, I felt like I had arrived late to a party. I wanted to leave and find my way back to the land of Blissful Ignorance. However, the other partygoers graciously welcomed me and invited me to eat and drink. The food and drink was different. It was satisfying. They taught me empathy. They taught me it’s a different kind of party.
My songbook had songs of angst but not lament.
Those are two different songs.
Angst is matured by the song of lament.
I didn’t have songs to sing when marriages fell apart. Or when death paid an unexpected visit, especially to babies. Or when careers were shattered and families uprooted. Or when the poor were oppressed and there was nothing I could do but watch.
What songs could I sing?
Sure there were songs of lament out there, but they weren’t my songs. It’s hard sometimes to follow the tune of someone else’s heart.
So I started writing songs of lament and started using a line in my preaching “there are two types of people in the world: those who suffer and those who will suffer.”
So today, 24 hours after three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers were gunned down on a quiet, sunny, Sunday morning, the heartache and headache we’ve experienced the last nearly two weeks has morphed into a heavy burden. And it’s not going away anytime soon.
What song can I sing?
What song can we sing?
What songs did our human ancestors sing when the burden was heavy and seemingly permanent?
Psalm 58 and 77 have provided comfort.
(Psalm 58.6 – God, kick out the teeth of all the bad leaders who keep biting us!)
God knew Humanity would need songs of lament to cope with reality. We must learn how to lament, to grieve deeply as individuals and a community.
Why learn to lament? Because our days are not always free of the cares of this world.
Having carefree days are nice, but it’s not always reality.
The one who expects everyday to be carefree won’t know how to handle a day of trouble.
Such a person will be filled with angst.
Angst leads to cynicism.
Cynicism leads to apathy.
Apathy leads to the destruction of a city.
And when a city is destroyed her people are left abandoned and without hope.
No hope is death.
Lament is the path to hope.
Hope is the path to life.
And where there’s life, there’s a party.
It’s time to put down the kid juice of angst and learn to drink the wine of lament.
Welcome to the party.
Invite the others in.
Christ, have mercy.