La·ment --verb \lə-ˈment\
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online)
Definition of LAMENT
: to mourn aloud : wail
1: to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for--often demonstratively : mourn
2 : to regret strongly
A couple of years ago Opinionated Friend and I joined forces and held a worship night on Sunday evenings. It was an hour of music, prayer and scripture. We a series of themes to be woven together and tell a story. One of my favorites was the night on lament. We had post-it notes available for each person and invited them to write down their laments, the sorrows, their worries, their questions for God on the post-it note. They brought them up and stuck them on an old window that someone had hanging around. I forget the symbolism of the window, but one of our team took that window with the post-it notes and transferred the writings onto the window. She then took pages from an old Bible and put them behind the notes to create a kind of collage. The effect was dramatic and poignant.
The window collage wound up in Opinionated Friend's office. When she moved, it came to my office. It sits just across from my desk, in my line of sight every day. There hasn't been a "right" place for it to reside, so it sits and waits for a proper home...and I look at it every day. I am not in the same place that I was that night that the window of lament was made and yet it still speaks to my soul.
It occurred to me the other day that there aren't many places in the world where we can safely lament...where we can pour out our worries and concerns, where we can cry out the injustices that have struck our hearts and lives, where we can cry out our uncertainties about God...which is why that night and that window was so important to me. For that hour, it was safe to rail, to question, to cry out and doubt God. No one would question or tell us that we were wrong or not good enough Christians. We were gathered as the people of God...truly coming just as we were before God...with no one to edit or add to our statements of lament.
Tonight at High School group we talked about being filled with sorrow before we can find joy. Giving voice to our grief before we can find laughter. The context of tonight's discussion was in relation to our own sinfulness, but there is something to that line of thinking. In order to fully appreciate joy we must first fully appreciate lament. We must first give ourselves over to the mourning, the wailing, the sorrow before we can find joy again.
My experience with grief has shown me that the times of joy that come after grief are sweet, pure and even more profound in light of all that I have experienced previously. There's an appreciation for the lightness joy after walking through the darkness of grief that I would not have known. That joy is even sweeter when I find the freedom to lament...strike that. Joy is even sweeter when I am given the freedom to lament, to give voice to the sorrow and the pain inside my soul, to cry out to the God that I know holds me close but yet seems so far away at times.
I've spent the past few days looking at the window of lament, thinking that the world needs permission to lament, to wail, to mourn, to regret what has been and clear the way for joy.