After a strange and long winter with flurries even in mid-April, we entered into the heat and rain of spring on bended knee, nearly kissing the green earth in thanks and praise. When our monthly community worship time approached, I decided to plan it as a praise time for the rebirth of spring. But as I planned, I was a little lost and distracted by the sense that the joy I wanted to convey wasn’t the only thing I was feeling.
With bombs, explosions, factory collapses, stories of abuse and pain, friends that are struggling, I can’t seem to shake the grief from my shoulders.
When I was three, I started asking my mom where children go when they die. A few years later, my nighttimes were so plagued by fears of the dark and of the faces on the woodgrains of my closet door that my mother, out of desperation, did a sort of exorcism of the evil from my room. In Jr. High and Highschool, I refused to go to parties where they would show horror movies.
Clearly, I thought about death and dark things quite a lot from an early age. And gradually, I’m ashamed to admit that I began to hole myself off from bad things. I tried to focus instead on beautiful things, good things, funny things, pleasing things, lighthearted things, all in an effort to keep those bad thoughts from my mind.
You’re way ahead of me, aren’t you, knowing already that it doesn’t work to avoid the brokenness of the world, mainly because so much of it is inside me already.
Eventually, I realized that instead of shutting away or hiding from the darker things of the world, I needed to find a way to cope with them to write about them and most importantly, to lament and grieve the brokenness in our world.
Many books of the Old Testament chronicle the lament of Israel, the prophets and even, occasionally, the lament of a king or two. When I began reading Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination with Kelley Nikondeha’s book club, I was struck most of all that those who speak prophetic words often must energize a community or a society into action by speaking directly to the pain and mortality in all of us. For someone like me, it’s easy to pretend that if we just ignore the bad things, they will go away. But it ain’t gonna happen. And those prophetic voices are laboring to do the very opposite: to shake us out of our complacency and open our eyes. And what’s more, I’m realizing that the more I peer into the darkness, into my own brokenness and the pain others endure, looking for some glimmer of hope or redemption, the more I’m seeing the God of all light.
Brueggemann’s book inspires me to listen for those prophetic voices who are speaking into the cracks in our hearts, urging us into compassion and action.
I think this song,
This world is full of trouble and woe/All I see is trouble everywhere I go/I’m gonna sing the trouble that I know
This world is full of sadness and tears/They fill us full of sadness and full of fear/I’m gonna sing until my eyes are clear
I’m gonna dig deep down into my heart/I’m gonna dig deep down, I’m gonna do my part/I’m gonna sing, sing a brand new start
This world is full of promise and love/Promise of a new day with no dark clouds above/I’m gonna sing that world I’m dreamin’ of
This world is full of joy and mystery/ This world will be of joy, I believe it will be/ When we know what it is to be free
This world is full of trouble and woe/All I see is trouble everywhere I go/ I’m gonna sing, sing my way back home