Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lament and Empathy

"To do the work of justice you have to ask hard questions. Simple questions won't get there . . . And only in empathy can we lament . . . Lament is powerful because before people will follow you, they must know you love them."  - Reverend Gabriel Salguero in his plenary address on 9/26/14

Saturday I returned from the annual Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference. It was the fourth time I have attended and I simply cannot say enough about CCDA and the organizations they represent. If we want to talk best practices, if we want to talk experience, if we want to talk obedience to the Scriptures matched by humility, these are the folks to see. On a daily basis, I operate based on principles gleaned from this organization.

The theme this year was "Flourish" and oddly enough the word I took away from it was "lament".

I've written about the topic of lament here before, so I won't harp on in, but the basic point to know is this: A lament is a prayer born out of pain. 

And there's been plenty of pain to go around these days . . .

I took 30 seconds and scanned words on the New York Times front page today and here's what I came away with: Ebola patient . . . Hong Kong protests . . . ISIS overruns Kurdish village

And I could have kept going.

The news that has most deeply impacted me in the past months is further evidence of this pain.

Michael Brown killed in Ferguson. No gun.

John Crawford in Ohio was killed in Wal-Mart holding a toy gun from the store. His last words, "It's not real."

Levar Jones of South Carolina is shot, then apologizes for following the directions and asks, "Why did you shoot me, sir?"

Jordan Davis was killed in a parking lot on Jacksonville's Southside. The defense? An imaginary gun that appeared only after Michael Dunn was face-to-face with a detective.

14 year old James Thomas was killed at a swimming pool less than three miles from my house in July over a girl.

Cab driver Stuart Carson was killed seven blocks from my house in June.

And this is just a portion . . .

Add to it.

In what is already what I believe to be a lamentable, broken, and unjust immigration system, fiscal year 2014 has seen 66,127 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border. Over three fourths of them from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala each of which land in the top five countries in the world for murder rate. Here are tens of thousands of children fleeing their homes, fleeing gangs that are known to specifically target children as a demonstration of their cruelty.

And the vitriolic response of many in this country to this humanitarian crisis only causes more need for lament. It's as if basic human empathy has been abandoned.

Add to it.

I could keep going . . .

But lament isn't just listing injustices.

Lament is a prayer born out of pain. And prayer is about talking to the One who knows it better than you do. It is talking to the One who can actually do something about it. It is talking to the One who experienced the greatest injustice so that you and I could be brought near.

And this is the part where I normally expound on that last point. And we remember the Gospel and I remember the Gospel and my heart soars. And that's a good thing.

But today, this week, maybe this whole month . . . I need to spend a little more time in the pain. A little more time in the lament.

The redemption is coming. But it's not here yet.

The already . . . but the not yet.

So, join me in prayerful lament, please. Let's get to the redemption, but for now, join me in crying out to the One who understands pain. Join me in asking the hard questions that are the only way to get to justice.

Join with those who experience America differently than you do. Empathize with them.

Join with those who fear for their lives during "everyday" encounters. Empathize with them.

Join with kids fleeing violence only to be met by hatred. Empathize with them.

Join with families stuck in an immigration bureaucracy. Empathize with them.

We will get to the redemption. We will get the the New Creation. We will. But for now, lets sit in the pain for a moment. Let's ask the hard questions. Let's learn to empathize. Let's learn to love. Let's learn to lament.


Kim Reeves said...

Ughhhhhh...thank you for letting me see thongs through your eyes...