James K.A. Smith writes, “In many ways the broader culture lacks the imagination to imagine the world otherwise…Our most primary and fundamental mode of ‘understanding’ is more literary than logical: we are the kind of creatures who make our way in the world more by metaphor than mathematics. The way we ‘know’ is more like a dance than deduction.”
Too many of us are attempting to understand the world right now through the lens of proposition. Our politicians and leaders attempt to communicate facts and figures, but are falling woefully short of communicating truth. What we desire is less proposition and more narration.
The folks you see in the streets lamenting the death in their communities are wanting you to desperately hear their story. It is loud. It is passionate. At times it may be destructive. You know why? Because it is the collective voice of the marginalized shouting as one “Can you hear me now?” The marginalized often need a megaphone to be heard.
Daniel Hill writes:
“It became abundantly clear that the dichotomy between a triumphalist and lament approach to church is more than an interesting theological exercise; it has a tremendous impact on how we process pain and suffering in the world. When we’re under the influence of triumphalism, we search for ‘success’ in virtually every circumstance, so when a societal problem surfaces, it must be fixed so we can feel a sense of achievement. Therefore, an unresolved problem poses a threat. We don’t know how to manage the dissonance created by the unsolvable problem, and we struggle to understand the nervous energy created by that tension. Lament, on the other hand, doesn’t function according to the rules of success. It sees suffering not as a problem to be solved but as a condition to be mourned. Lament doesn’t see the power of salvation as being in the hands of the oppressors; instead it cries out to God for deliverance from the grip of injustice. Lament is a guttural cry and a longing for God’s intervention. It recognizes, as the psalmist so eloquently stated, that hope is found not in chariots and in horses but in God alone. (Psalm 20:7) Lament gives us permission to admit that we aren’t capable of fixing (and may have been part of causing) the problems we’ve suddenly become awakened to. Lament gives us resources to sit in the tension of suffering and pain without going to place of shame or self-hate. Lament allows us to acknowledge the limitations of human strength and to look solely to the power of God instead.
To lament is to ask God the haunting questions ‘Where are you?’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘How long must we wait?’ To ask these questions is not to doubt or challenge God. Instead, as Dr. Dan Allender eloquently states, ‘It is crucial to comprehend a lament is as far from complaining or grumbling as a search is from aimless wandering. A grumbler has already reached a conclusion, shut down all desire and postures with questions that are barely concealed accusations…A lament involves even deeper emotion because a lament is truly asking, seeking, and knocking to comprehend the heart of God. A lament involves the energy to search, not to shut down the quest for truth. It is passion to ask, rather than to rant and rave with already reached conclusions. A lament uses the language of pain, anger, and confusion and moves toward God.”