How to lament

Some of the last footprints Mack left in the snow. They remained for over a week.
Some of the last footprints Mack left in the snow. They remained for over a week.

It has barely been over one week since our wonderful boy died. It was fast, sudden, and completely unexpected. It was not an accident or a prolonged illness, but rather a bacterial infection of the blood. We are thankful for the small grace that he was in very little pain and it was swift. But that is, as they say, cold comfort. We are riven with grief, disbelief, and the fundamental truth that we just want our boy back. And so we cry, we grieve, we mourn, we…just do what we can, not only for ourselves, but our beautiful daughter, Mack’s big sister. And the incredible boys and girls who are suddenly without their goalie, classmate, and fellow-adventurer.

Those who have only gotten to know me (or my blog) over the last 6 or 8 years, or even the last 6 or 8 days, may not know that I spent nearly a decade working on the biblical Book of Lamentations and its rabbinic interpretation, specifically the Targum. No amount of studying laments can prepare you for the devastation that comes with your own personal, gut eating, mind breaking tragedy. I can tell you that I believe the only theology that accommodates such tragedy is the reality that we live in a broken world; this is not how it was supposed to be. No one is being punished, prayers were not insufficient, nor was God being vindictive. We live in a hurt and suffering world and none of us can escape that.

What I did learn from Lamentations and the Psalms is that when we are hurt in this unjust and wicked way it is OK, even necessary, to be angry with God. As a wonderful colleague and mentor said to me last week, “God can take it and he should be used to it by now, given all the grief in this world.” How can I help but find myself in the “I” of chapter 3?

Lam 3:1 I am one who has seen affliction

under the rod of God’s wrath;

2 he has driven and brought me

into darkness without any light;

3 against me alone he turns his hand,

again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,

and broken my bones;

5 he has besieged and enveloped me

with bitterness and tribulation;

6 he has made me sit in darkness

like the dead of long ago.

I hope and pray, though, that the rest of chapter 3 is true as well.

31 For the Lord will not

reject forever.

32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion

according to the abundance of his steadfast love;

33 for he does not willingly afflict

or grieve anyone.

A last note. I am not trying to “pastor” anyone other than myself in what I write. I need to think out loud in order to work through it all.

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