3.07.2008

From the depths

Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice...
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope. -- Psalm 130
When NPR snapped on and jarred me awake this morning, there was the usual litany of chaos and madness: Jewish students shot in their seminary library, in retaliation for brutal Israeli incursion into Gaza. Rescuers in Baghdad blown to bits by a suicide bomber who waited for people to aid victims of an earlier blast. Farmers cutting down swaths of the rainforest to grow soy for bio-diesel, since US farmers are growing more corn for ethanol -- both of which cause more carbon than the fuels they intend to replace.

Normally, the bad news as I drift to consciousness drives me to prayer. I try to figure out what would make these problems better and beg God to intervene.

Today, words failed me. I was driven to lament, to cry out to God with the mourners in Jerusalem and Palestine and Iraq, to groan with the earth trying and failing to keep up with our voracious appetites.

Lord, I cry to you from the depths. How long, O Lord? How long must we wait?

Today, I stopped thinking about these things and simply felt them. I felt the pain and cried out, as God's people have done since the beginning. I didn't want to fix anything, simply to be in solidarity and sympathy with those who suffer.

And I realized something: God, too, weeps for his people.

God is good and powerful. And the world -- even our violence, our greed, our attempts to do good that fall short -- all of this is God's. God's justice and mercy will prevail in the end.

In the meantime, God weeps.

And as much as I want to do something about this awful news, I learned what a privilege it is to first join God as he beholds his suffering people. Sitting with pain and with God -- what the ancients called lament -- made the depth of disaster real in ways that all my thinking couldn't. Crying out took the headlines beyond political issues and scientific problems, and revealed behind them people: humans who grieve and render aid and scheme and end up making things worse when they only tried to do the right thing. People like me, and those around me.

It seems to me that if I'm going to do anything about cycles of violence, to each other and our Earth, it will have to start with reframing abstract "issues" and grasping the pain and frustration and peril they cause to the people affected by them. I must cry out as if I am one of the victims -- because in many ways, I am affected. I must see those who are suffering as God does, and love them, and weep.

Then I can respond to people's pain in the places I inhabit. And if enough of us do this where we are -- wherever in the world we are -- God will change the world.
O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;
With him is plenteous redemption
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

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