Lament As a Spiritual Practice

Here’s a particularly Lenten acknowledgement:

The Church of Jesus Christ has failed miserably in terms of dismantling racism.  We have looked the other way when sexual abuse has occurred – even within the walls of church buildings.  We are responsible for crushing the spirits of God’s children who are queer.  And there are several other things.

Lent is the season when we confess and hope for grace.  But when our very systems are broken, it’s clearly not enough to say, “I’m sorry” and expect everybody to move on.  We need to sit in lamentation.

I often say that we Presbyterians like to see ourselves as the smart ones.  We gather for book studies and intellectual conversation.  We invite speakers to edify us on important topics.  And then we go home smarter.  But nothing changes.  Our studies and conversations have no visible impact.

The same is true for confession.  We Reformed Christians emphasize grace and we regularly make our prayers of confession followed by a swift assurance of God’s grace.  But considering the level of destruction our national sins have created, maybe we need to sit in our lament for a while.

The more we study our nation’s history, the clearer it becomes that – while being a great nation – we have committed horrible deeds.  Native land was stolen.  Human beings were enslaved.  Families were separated and they continue to be separated.  Cultures were erased.  The poor endured different rules from the rich.  To say, “I’m so sorry” is just the beginning.

The NEXT Church National Gathering in Seattle this week was one opportunity to consider lament as a spiritual practice.  We who are the dominant culture cannot move forward without understanding the depth of our often cruel dominance.

This is not a happy, shiny post.  But if we cannot grapple with hard truths during Lent, I don’t know when we can grapple with them.

How do we practice lament?  Read authors whose life experiences are different from our own.  Read Tommy Orange and Jennifer Harvey and Robin Diangelo.

As one of the keynoters said today: we who are white must intentionally put ourselves in uncomfortable non-white spaces. Taste what it’s like to be in an unfamiliar culture.

The Church of Jesus Christ has failed miserably in terms of dismantling racism.  We have looked the other way when sexual abuse has occurred – even within the walls of church buildings.  We are responsible for crushing the spirits of God’s children who are queer.  And there are several other things.

I believe God is calling us to notice the sins of our history and to confess them. And while I believe that God is abundantly gracious, I also know that God expects us to feel it.  We need to be willing to feel the discomfort and the pain.  This is what Jesus did.

Image of Lamentation by Eleanor Coen (1939) in the Art Institute of Chicago.

One response to “Lament As a Spiritual Practice

  1. Pingback: Friday Festival: Early Lent – RevGalBlogPals

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