The weight of sorrow sits heavy in these strange days. We’ve been sobered up to know this COVID-19 pandemic is bigger than we expected and will go on far longer than we dared believe. Of course it’s more than the restrictions and frustrations of isolation, more than the steady accumulation of losses, more than this Lent that no one bargained for and, for all appearances, has no end in sight.
It’s the apocalyptic nature of it all. I’m using that word very precisely here (don’t think dystopian catastrophe but rather a revealing). The veil has been pulled back, we’ve peeked behind the curtain and see how precariously vulnerable we are — and always have been. The illusion that we were ever in control is gone.
This moment provides us the opportunity to learn lament, to lift our griefs to God, to be like God who grieves and groans. This is not spiritual mewling but an act of worship rooted in God’s person and character. It’s an act entirely congruent with our bent and broken world.
During this Holy Week witnessing the agonized grief of God, I leave you the words of a moving liturgy of lament (Douglas McKelvey, Every Moment Holy):
There is so much lost in this world, O Lord, so much that aches and groans and shivers for want of redemption, so much that seems dislocated, upended, desecrated, unhinged — even in our own hearts.
Is it any wonder we should weep sometimes, without knowing why? It might be anything. And then again, it might be everything.
O Lord, how can we not weep, when waking each day in this vale of tears?
We feel ourselves wounded by what is wretched, foul, and fell, but we are sometimes wounded by the beauty as well, for when it whispers, it whispers of the world that might have been our birthright, now banished, now withdrawn, as unreachable to our wounded hearts as ancient seas receding down some endless dark.
We weep, O Lord, for those things that, though nameless, are still lost. We weep for the cost of our rebellions, for the mocking and hollowing of holy things, for the inward curve of our souls, for the evidence of death outworked in every field and tree and blade of grass, crept up in every creature, alert in every longing, infecting all fabrics of life.
And yet, there is somewhere in our tears, a hope still kept.
We feel it in this darkness like a tiny flame, when we are told
Jesus also wept.
So moved by the pain of this crushed creation you, O Lord, heaved with grief of it, drinking the anguish like water and sweating it out of your skin like blood.
Is it possible that you — in your sadness over Lazarus, in your grieving for Jerusalem, in your sorrow in the garden — is it possible that you, have sanctified our weeping too?
For the grief of God is no small thing, and the weeping of God is not without effect. The tears of Jesus preceded a resurrection of the dead.
O Spirit of God is it then possible that our tears might also be a kind of intercession?
If that is true, then let such weeping be received, O Lord, as an intercession newly forged of holy sorrow.
Then let our tears anoint these broken things, and let our grief be as their consecration — a preparation for their promised redemption, our sorrow sealing them for that day when you will take the ache of all creation, and turn it inside-out, like the shedding of an old gardener’s glove.
Artwork: Reach, Robert Hodgell