Just saying the word feels heavy. I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few months about lament, about grieving. I talked about it some here.
I had the privilege of attending the CCDA National Conference in Raleigh at the end of September, and they actually kicked off the whole event with a session on lament. Leroy Barber and Noel Castellanos spoke about how the road to flourishing communities doesn’t look the way we think it should. Justice costs. Our lives as followers of Christ are centered in struggle. I’ve thought about these statements a lot. The roads our kids often choose really don’t look the way I think they should. Things always seem to be harder than they should be. Old habits really do die hard, even though what lies ahead of you is infinitely better.
I just finished reading Neighborhood Mapping by Dr. John Fuder. I have LOTS of thoughts after reading that book. But, there was one quote that stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t keep reading. And I’ve thought of it every single day since then.
“Christianity is keeping one hand on the plow, while with the other wiping away the tears.” — Watchman Nee
What a life we’ve signed up for. We spend so much energy trying to forget the bad, to focus on the positive, to try to experience joy unspeakable. But we are called to a balance — not all joy, all the time. Catherine Booth, cofounder of the Salvation Army, laments, “Oh that we could weep the gospel into people.” It’s quotes like these that remind me of the gravity of this work we do. It’s easy to get in the mode of inviting folks to “join the party,” so to speak, but I feel like that waters down what’s at stake. Salvation is worth weeping over. Lives wasted should cause tears. Generational poverty should break our hearts.
Later, Fuder goes on to say, “to get to true kingdom life change, you must have a willingness to let your heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.” Nobody wants a broken heart, but the promise that’s present, true kingdom life change, well, that’s worth it.
Nobody told me it’d be this hard. My guess is that no one told you either. The good news comes in a statement Noel made that opening night. “We do not have the power within ourselves to heal the brokenness of this world.” We need Christ. We need Him desperately. And I believe that truly needing Him starts with weeping, with lament, with a broken heart. Only when we recognize that it’s not in our power can we stop doing things our way, ask for help, and watch His power work.
I know trouble is fleeting, that heaven awaits, that Christ came to reconcile. But I think we’re amiss if we try to skip the trouble and always dwell on the positive. We certainly need encouragement and joy, and celebration has it’s place, but we also desperately need times of weeping and lament. Times to express the heaviness our souls carry for our neighbors.