A Case for Lament
Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. Jeremiah 9:1 NIV
This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids.
The sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How ruined we are! How great is our shame!
We must leave our land because our houses are in ruins.’ ”
Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth.
Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament.
Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses;
it has removed the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares. Jeremiah 9:17-21 NIV
The kind of lament described above, isn’t familiar to most of us in this country. Until I researched it, I didn’t know that people (usually women, in certain cultures), were trained to be lamenter/wailers. They were to be available to grieve with people who had experienced loss of something or someone.
For many of us, it is hard to freely express our grief openly. I have been grateful for this church community and the help I’ve received during a number of deaths in my family. I am also grateful for books I have been given and for support groups that are available, to enable people to share in each other’s griefs and struggles. I could have used help with more than one loss, particularly when I was a child.
I’ve mentioned before that because of a physical illness that our parents had (which meant that we had to be isolated from them periodically), my sister and I were moved around among different family members a number of times from our infancy on. Sometimes these moves included my younger sister and me, but sometimes, we were split up to live with different sides of the family. I am fourteen months older than my sister, and it was easier for some of the relatives to have us one at a time rather than together.
Our father died when I was four and my sister was three. When our mother got well, we were moved to live with her, her sister and their mother in New Mexico.
When I was 10, our mother got sick again. In the spring of 1953, because it was easier to isolate one of us while our grandmother was nursing Mom, my sister remained in New Mexico, and I was sent to live with our father’s sister and her husband in Denver,.
I turned 11 in August of 1953 and Mom died in November. We had been getting progress reports via daily postcards up until the phone rang at 9:30 one night, I remember saying, “Mom’s gone!”. I couldn’t cry for weeks. My aunt wasn’t very concerned, but my uncle was, and he resorted to a ruse to help me.
My aunt in New Mexico had sent a card with a $5.00 bill in it. There had been 2 of them in Mom’s purse. My sister and I each got one. I saved mine for weeks. My uncle rushed in one morning and asked if he could borrow it as he needed to pay the paper boy. I gave it to him, but said that it was the last thing I had from Mom. I started to cry, and cried for a long time that day. After that, every time I started to cry, my aunt would ask, “What are you blubbering about?” or threaten me with, ”I’ll give you something to cry about!” I learned to stuff my grief around everybody.
I still am more apt to cry for joy than for my own grief. I am learning that Jesus shares my sorrow and that he is safe to cry with.
Do any of you reading this relate? Ponder Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I recommend Darrell W. Johnson’s book, The Beatitudes: Living in Sync with the Reign of God.