verb (used with object)
- to feel or express sorrow or regret for: to lament his absence.
- to mourn for or over.
verb (used without object)
- to feel, show, or express grief, sorrow, or regret.
- to mourn deeply.
- an expression of grief or sorrow.
- a formal expression of sorrow or mourning, especially in verse or song; an elegy or dirge.
The lament is a lost art in Christianity. Perhaps lost is the wrong word; abandoned may be more accurate. To lament is to admit that it's not always sunny on the Jesus side of the street. To lament is to express frustration. To lament is to complain to and about God, and that is not cool, at least in the western Evangelical church of which I am most familiar. So lock your troubles in the car, put on your best parking-lot smile, and get to church, brother, because to lament is to demonstrate a lack of faith, and is a betrayal of the Gospel.
Let me suggest something else. In fact, let me suggest exactly the opposite.
To lament is not a betrayal of the Gospel, but is actually the purest form of worship I can think of.
To lament is to grieve with God the way things are. This is only possible because we have had a glimpse of the way things could be, the way things should be, the way things were meant to be, the way things will be.
Just not today.
In the community I was once a part of we had a practice built around the lament which we called The Holy WTF. It was serious stuff, and it was always cathartic.
The lament is something we need to re-remember.
Now let me tell you what prompted these thoughts.
It started with Peter Banks and his review of the British band Hope & Social. Peter's review is thoughtful and intelligent, the kind you can only get from an insider. Interest sufficiently peaked, I started clicking links. After previewing a couple of different songs on their latest disk All Our Dancing Days I ran headlong, at full speed, into the song Dust.
The raw emotion in this song is electrifying. It's a lament in every sense of the word. It doesn't take us on a journey and then leave us on a happy note. It's raw, grieving, frustrated emotion, put to poetry and accompanied by a haunting melody.
Hopeless? No. When we point to what is wrong, we are always referring back to what is right. Darkness is an absence of light, but it's about the light. Goodness is the white space in the image.
Dust (Hope & Social)
There's dust in every shop in every town in every county we've counted
There's space in every bar in every pub in every place that we've been
And I see some notice that business is closing on Kirkstall Road
The country's complexion is shifting and changing, how no-one knows
There's mould in every house in every home that we've been to
There's rust on every slide in every park in every place that we've seen
And I see some girl with her mind unfurled out on Water Lane
While I'm reading the plans of a public-school man who says we're to blame
What a shame
There's truth in every lie in every line in every speech that is written
Maybe there is good in all the bile and the blood that they're spitting
But we cannot give time to fight cancer or crime when there's bills to pay
It's simple arithmetic, the ins and the outs of it will not change
They're shifting account now the money's run out, it's such a shame
What a shame
All creation is groaning, particularly loudly these days, and it's OK for us to join in when we feel the need.