Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lent: Not giving up on weeping

I had trouble posting yesterday because I was struggling to come up with words for what I was feeling. Let me explain.

We had group presentations in our Jeremiah class yesterday. Groups were presenting on various motifs in the book of Jeremiah, and one group had the motif of sounds. Jeremiah is an incredibly graphic book. If you read it right, you can hear the thundering of horses hooves, the sound of the trumpets, the wild pounding of Jeremiah's (or is it God's?) heart. So this group presented on various sounds in Jeremiah--sounds of war, sounds of desolation, sounds of restoration.

It was an effective presentation. It was probably too effective.

For the last piece of their presentation, the group played a sound clip that a Gazan woman had recorded in her house. It was the thundering crunch--distant but not distant enough--of the shelling, or the bombing, of the Gaza Strip.

I got up and left the room. Others in the room had incredibly strong, in some cases traumatized, reactions.

It's important for me to say that I was never in Gaza, was never under bombardment. I only have the second- and third-hand accounts. My friend Eric telling me that his friend Basem split up his family so that they wouldn't all be killed in one blast, back in November during the euphemistically named Operation Pillar of Defense. The U.S.-made F-16s flying their test patterns over Bethlehem before Operation Cast Lead in 2008, breaking the sound barrier over crowded civilian areas. Amr Shurrab, talking about his family being gunned down by the Israeli military during a ceasefire. And, as I have done so often, I run out of words.

So I ran out of words, yesterday, and couldn't blog. But later on that night, I met with my partner to talk about our own presentation on Jeremiah, in which we will talk about the motif of weeping in Jeremiah.

And we wondered together what it would be like to provide a space for mourning.

And sometimes, I think that's what's called for. Not reasoning. Not speaking. Just weeping.

I have a dear friend who told me once that tears are a spiritual gift, a gift from God. And I think that's true. So often the tears cannot seem to come, and we are desolate. Unable even to mourn.

That's why, according to theologian Pete Rollins, we need a church that's like a singer-songwriter. Or a poet. Or a professional mourner. Able through its own public struggle with pain to put us in touch with our emotions and our pain, and thus to give us tools to overcome:

Professional mourners, by the way, show up in Jeremiah, too, as does weeping. Even God weeps in Jeremiah. It's a book edited in exile by a community trying desperately to figure out how to overcome trauma.

A community holding open the possibility of mourning.

This Lent, I'm not giving up on weeping.

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