When I was looking at the worship life of the American church, I noticed that lament, and something like the book of Lamentations, was absent in so much of our worship life…Why is it that in our typical American churches we don’t want to engage in a very important spiritual practice that we find throughout scripture, which is the practice of lament? We don’t take the time to think about suffering. We want to jump to celebration and victory…
Lament challenges us to say maybe we don’t have all the answers. Maybe I don’t know everything there is to know about God. And in fact, I need the stories of others. I need the reality of the experience of those who have suffered, because that’s a part of God that I don’t know. This is about being discipled in the faith by those who have a different set of stories than we do – different experiences than we do.”
I can’t. I just can’t anymore.
What words are there to describe the horror of what women go through in this world?
What could possibly be said about a young college woman having unspeakable things done to her while unconscious, and her rapist somehow getting out of a 14 year prison sentence?
How do we begin to speak about the 19 women burned alive for refusing to have sex with ISIS fighters?
How do we describe the 200 million girls we will never know because they have been killed by preference of sons over daughters, infanticide, & sex-selective abortion?
What words can do justice to the girls around the world who are kidnapped, raped, and forced into marrying their rapists because of “cultural convention?”
How do we speak about the 14 women who were brutally attacked last year for rejecting men?
There are no words.
I see the stats that 65% of sexual assaults go unreported, and I’m not surprised that there are no words to describe even the things that we ourselves have gone through.
When your mouth can’t form the syllables because all your energy is going into processing what has happened, trying to remember, washing the blood off, and attempting to look yourself in the mirror. And when you finally look up, you realize that this is happening not just to you, but to the women all around you.
What words are there to describe the deep, deep anger we feel when we see this happen again and again? When the story of what happened to a woman you’ve never met rocks you to the core and you can’t get out of bed in the morning? Because her story feels like yours, and your mother’s, and your daughter’s. Because if her assaulter is freed of his punishment, that means yours will be too.
What do you say when you look back at history and realize that nothing has changed, and that the main thing that unites your gender across nationalities, generations, races, and religions is the violence that is done to you?
How can we adequately show the anguish of women who are tired of living in a world where we are constantly beaten and taken advantage of and mistreated and looked down upon and told to be quiet and told our opinions don’t matter and mocked when we do try to speak?
There are no words.
When you go to the Church for help, and they tell you your “place” is under the authority of men.
When you tell them what men have done to you, and they tell you “boys will be boys”.
There are no words to describe the feeling when educated, well respected, male theologians tell you that the main source of your identity as a woman is in how you relate to and respond to men, by recognizing and responding to their “God ordained leadership”.
There are no words when those theologians get behind a microphone and say that a woman’s nature is to be deceived.
There are no words to describe the prideful arrogance of men who can’t see that their own mindset of female subordination is the cause of women’s plight and that by preaching their message they are actually contributing to the worldwide degradation of women.
There are no words to confront the lie that more men assuming more authority over more women is going to make the world better.
There are no words.
I was told once that lament can open up things in your soul that you didn’t know were there. When we feel like we have no words, perhaps borrowing them is a place to start. I’ve borrowed a few from the book of Lamentations. How telling that I only had to change a few words to lament our story – the story of women.
How lonely sits the woman
who was once so full of life.
She that ruled over creation
is now considered subject.
She weeps bitterly in the night
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;
all of them have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.
She is alone in this world of suffering and servitude;
alive with no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper.
Is it the Lord that has made her suffer?
And she remembers all the precious things about her life long past
before her sisters fell into the hand of the foe and there was no one to help her,
the foe looked on mocking over their downfall.
The woman cries out,
“Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.
My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of my sisters.
My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite,
until the Lord from Heaven looks down and sees.
My eyes cause me grief at the fate of all the women around me.
I called on your name, O Lord.
From the depths of the pit
you heard my plea.
You came near when I called on you;
you told me, “Do not fear!”
You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord;
judge my cause!
You have seen all their malice,
all their plots against me.
You have heard their cat calls,
their taunts, their murmurs.
Whether they sit or they rise,
I am the object of their taunting songs.
Pay them back for their deeds, O Lord, according to the work of their hands!
Let them feel my anguish
as you judge them for the evil they have done.
You have taken up my cause, O Lord,
You redeemed my life.
Restore my sisters, O Lord, to what we were meant to be.”