How Did This Happen?

Do you remember when you realized your parents weren’t invincible? Maybe it was a parent falling perilously ill, losing a job, or a marriage unravelling. These kinds of things aren’t supposed to happen to Mom and Dad, or to whomever was a primary caregiver growing up. The comforting illusion of our parents as bulletproof is shattered. We all underwent a similar collective moment on September 11, 2001 when we all were served notice of our vulnerability to violent acts of terrorism. Alongside the deep grief, and unsettling anxiety we found ourselves experiencing disbelief. Our perceived invincibility of our American cities came tragically tumbling down with the Twin Towers.

The old notions we cherish die hard and leave us with a sense of great displacement. So does grief in any realm. We may grieve the loss of a career, the loss of a cherished relationship, the death of a loved one, or the realization a dream for ourselves or others will never be. We awkwardly shuffle on all fours on the ground trying to pick up the shattered pieces of what will not come to pass.

The book of Lamentations grieves such a moment for the Hebrew people. The destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and the subsequent destruction of the temple had been almost unimaginable for the Hebrews. Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann notes the cherished old promises of Yahweh to Israel, including Israel’s status as God’s people were “placed in deep jeopardy.”

In response, the book of Lamentations offers poetry which voices this deep sense of suffering, death, and abandonment as the voice of an anguished woman. This woman is really voicing the loss of the whole city. She is the voice of the city. And she expresses her suffering as ongoing. Kathleen O’Connor calls these expressions an ‘Act of Truthfulness.’ She explains, “speakers proclaim unvarnished truth before God, the book is full to overflowing with worshipful fidelity. Truth-telling is faithful to the ‘Other’ because speakers of truth hold the relationship open from their side. They keep communicating as if the Other might finally respond.”

When we experience grief it is important for us all to express these acts of truthfulness. We do not deny or dismiss the very real shock, pain, disbelief, and anger we are experiencing. We trust God is more than capable to hear our stories. Our whole messy stories. And we keep the door open in prayerful anticipation of God enveloping our stories in hope, healing, and redemption.