I had the privilege of hearing Prof. Rah speak last August on Lament. The conference was close to the second anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. It was also soon after the shooting of Philando Castile, which occurred only a few miles from where Rah was speaking.
His message enraptured me. The week before I had written these words to my students, notifying them I’d unexpectedly not be returning to my job. It was another loss for us in the midst of all the turmoil our community was already facing:
“As I write this to you, I can’t help but think about how my experience and time with you has been book-ended by major events. When I started two summers ago I walked into our leaders’ week to find myself swallowed by the news of Ferguson. I’m now leaving under the weight of the news of the Falcon Heights tragedy. So much of that has shaped my time and work.
These events, no doubt have put us on a journey of figuring out a new meaning of being colored and finding community. I wouldn’t have wanted to do that journey with anyone else. I have loved learning with you as we’ve found our voices together– what it means to be a person of color. We’ve learned to lament, protest, challenge and find ourselves. We’ve learned to wrestle through and love each other in the face of death. You all inspire me with your bravery.”
Lament. This is the word I needed to help frame the last few months of my life, the last couple years of turmoil in this country, the unexpected loss of my job and relationships. To top it off, my Grandmommy had just passed away, too. Then there was the political turmoil of another officer involved shooting a couple miles from where I lived. What do you do when the news around you causes you to need to grieve ones very being? I can’t put words to the shift of consciousness that has slowly formed my soul in the last couple years.
Lament. This book is positioned in a series of publications called Resonate and its call, I believe, is a challenge for the United States as much as it is for our book club. The line of writing comes from the need to engage popular culture and teach our faith values not from an academic standpoint, but from a cultural context. Our communities, our homes, our friendships need to see how we live out our faith in times of hurt, suffering, confusion and unknown. Prophetic Lament shows us a way to do that.
Maybe you’ve heard the word lament a lot, and it behooves you. You feel like it’s just the next “buzz word” in Christianity. Or perhaps this has been a joyous season for you, life has been meaningful and you have many reasons to celebrate. The need for lament seems far away. This book still has value for you.
Or maybe, like me, your 2016 was a dumpster fire and you’re peering into 2017 nervous, and in need of healing and rest. Lament and songs of suffering consume your mind. You’re undone. I am still in the midst of lament. I still have not found a job. I am still finding relational hurts I didn’t know were there. I am skeptical that good will come out of this brokenness. But I want to bravely hope toward healing. I believe this lament will birth praise.
Rah reminds us: “To only have a theology of celebration at the cost of a theology of lament is incomplete. The intersection of the two threads provides the opportunity to engage in the fullness of the gospel message. Lament and praise must go hand in hand. (p.23)”
Come, let’s journey from wherever we find ourselves together. Let’s expand the wholeness of our gospel as we learn to rejoice and lament with each other. Let’s learn about brokenness, so we can dance on despair in this new year.
Lovelys, why are you reading this book with us? What do you hope to find here?