Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday's Faith - Requiem: Eric Wolterstorff in Memoriam - Part IV: What Eric, (the child) himself, might say...

Friday's Faith

Requiem: Eric Wolterstorff in Memoriam

Part IV:

What Eric, (the child) himself, might say

Part IV

In my Beginning is my end
In my end is my beginning
T. S. Eliot

O Lord, you have fathomed and known me; know when I sit down or stand; created my innermost parts you wove me within the womb.
You saw me before I was born, days were inscribed in your book
...they were all formed and set
...before a single one came to be!
Psalm 139

My heart is not proud,
my eyes are not haughty;
I am not intent on great things
nor achievements sublime.
My soul lies at rest
as quiet as a child;
my soul is as still as a babe
at its mother's breast.
Psalm 131

I depart in peace
for my eyes have seen your salvation.
You have shown me the path of life.
In your presence there is fulness of joy,
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16

In justice I go to behold your face;
I shall find joy in your likeness when I awake.
Psalm 17

Picture, thanks to Grieving Mother, Terria Brewer

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday's Therapy - A Call to Lament - Part Four ~Angie and Tommy Prince with ~Nicholas Wolterstorff - How did the Need for the 'Cry of Lament' Get So Corrupted in the Church?

Thursday's Therapy

A Call to Lament

Part Four

~Angie and Tommy Prince

with ~Nicholas Wolterstorff

How Did the Need for the 'Cry of Lament' Get So Corrupted in the Church?

When you go to church, or you go around people engulfed in the church's doctrines, including, very likely, many in your family and community, you may have noticed that Christians are very thrown by your ongoing lament over your child. It's as if they are saying to us, "Yes children are one of God's greatest gifts to us, a very fount of love, and laughter, and creativity in our homes, and yes you grieve when they are gone, but why do you have to go on grieving them? When is it enough? Don't you think at some point you are making God look bad?"

It is shocking for us at some level that people can be so dense, so simplistic, and ultimately mean-spirited in begrudging us of all we have left of our child, which is to mourn them. Why---if they can't lovingly support us---why can they not at least respectfully leave us alone in our grief unharassed by their judgement? 

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Christian philosopher and grieving father, opens our eyes to how some of the errors in theology have slipped into our churches and swallowed up the love there to a large degree, the love that so many of us could respond to if it were directed our way, even if only in giving us the respect to grieve as we need to.


Wolterstorff describes the view of lament from Rabbi Kushner in his popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People:

"God couldn't do anything about our suffering even if God wanted to, says Kushner; so crying to God for deliverance makes no sense. God---so it is said---cannot intervene in the causal order. God set our entire cosmos going; and God is capable of undoing the whole thing. But God and the causal order are not of such a sort that God could intervene within the causal order."


{Angie's palpable response: How Dare you? Who are you to think you know my God so well that you have essentially rendered Him Impotent ~the Absolute, the GOD of the Universe, the Creator, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End~ for you to say He Cannot do anything about our suffering even if He wanted to? That is not the God I serve that you are describing!

The God that I love and bow down to is the God who is intimately relating to me on a daily basis, loving me, holding me together, weeping with me, and is longing along with me for the culmination of all His endeavors to bring an end to Satan, Sin, and Death. He is not impotent. Because of sin, we live in a fallen world. He Has Done What Is Necessary To Redeem It ~ 

What do you think Christmas is all about, 

but sending His Son in love to show us God's true nature, and for 

His giving up His only Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins so that we can respond to His great love, and become His children, and 

ultimately, because of His resurrection from the dead, we may be saved from the second death so that once we die, we will be able to go to Heaven, and will live with Love for all eternity, with His Kingdom restored, His creation restored, our bodies restored, and 

Satan, Sin, and Death all destroyed forever, for all eternity? 

But of course, Rabbi Kushner, you do not know that aspect of God because you do not recognize what He Did do by sending us Jesus as you are not yet a completed Jew. I will pray for you that you may learn that beautiful truth that will make all the difference in your life now…and for all eternity.}

{Tommy's response: Rabbi Kushner, you are basically proclaiming that our Omnipotent God is impotent!}


Wolterstorff elucidates other examples of otherwise great theologians unwittingly introducing error into our already strained understanding of God amidst the terrible angst of lament:


Augustine, for example, questioned the propriety of giving voice to suffering. In his Confessions he recollects the time before his conversion, when he wept without restraint over the death of his best friend, and the time, after his conversion, when, in spite of his attempts at restraint, he wept over the death of his mother. In both cases he says that he is telling us, his readers, about these episodes so as to confess his sin. His grief, he says, was the sign that he had been guilty of too much worldly affection. The things of this world are to be used, not enjoyed. We are to find our enjoyment in God and God alone---and in the prospect of ourselves and our friends and relatives dwelling forever in the presence of God. Grief, though not precisely sinful, is the mark, the sign, of a sinful orientation of life. In Augustinian piety, lament is displaced by confession of sin.


{Angie's response: Confession of Sin? Sin? You've got to be kidding me. We are made in God's image; God has emotions; we too will have the full gamut of emotions. God is not a passive God; neither are we. When a child is born, we rejoice! We are overjoyed! When a child is killed, we are devastated; we weep; we mourn; our lives are turned upside down and we feel it. In all of its devastating agony. There is Nothing to do with Sin when I grieve my precious child. By our lament we Are proclaiming our great Thanks to God for our child's life, for how precious they were / and are to us. Our God is a passionate God. We, His people, are also passionate people, made in His image. Even now, we are poured out as a drink offering to God and to one another to love each other through our grief. 

God understands that grief. He has felt it Himself. He too is a Child-Loss Father! He does not begrudge us our tender human emotions and call them a sin, so how dare you, brother Augustine, proclaim grief "a sinful orientation of life"? Jesus, God's own Son wept over His friend's death! Despite so many wonderful things that you contributed to our own understanding of God amidst your walk with God, dear brother Augustine, here we must proclaim you are in error: 

Your passion of love for your friend and for your dear precious mother who prayed you out of the hell-you-were-living straight into the-glorious-Kingdom-of-your-Father-God is to be commended and understood as glorifying to God, loving as He would love, not characterized as sinning against Him by your deep and abiding love for these beloved ones, nor by your grief over their ultimate loss!}


John Calvin

"Augustine saw the things of the world primarily as the works of God; he urges us to look away from them to their maker. They are to be regarded and received only for our continued existence and for our approach to God. Pervasive in (John) Calvin, by contrast, is the insistence "that we are to see the things of this world not only as the works of God  but also as the gifts of God, gifts not only for utility but for delight. 

"'This life, however crammed with infinite miseries it may be, is still rightly to be counted among those blessings of God which are not to be spurned. Therefore, if we recognize in it no divine benefit, we are already guilty of grave ingratitude toward God Himself.' …

"Calvin says… we must bear our grief and suffering with patience. What did Calvin mean by patience and why did he recommend it? The clue is contained in the following passage. This 'general axiom is to be maintained, that all the sufferings to which human life is subject and liable are necessary exercises by which God partly invites us to repentance, partly instructs us in humility, and partly renders us more cautious and attentive in guarding against the allurements of sin for the future.' God is the ultimate agent of our suffering and grief. It is for our good that God causes us to suffer; suffering in general, and grief in particular, are to be interpreted as manifestations of the goodness of God. The world is, as it were, a vast reformatory. That is why we are not to follow the 'new stoics,' trying to violate our nature by becoming numb….

"...The dominant note is that grief and suffering are manifestations of God's gracious attempt to reform us...

"The appropriate attitude then is patience, forbearance, even gratitude. 'But, if it be clear that our afflictions are for our benefit, why should we not undergo them with a thankful and quiet mind?' 

"...We are to interpret our sufferings as God's instrument for reforming our souls until they are fit with fellowship with God. Accordingly, we are to discipline ourselves to endure those sufferings with patience, even with gratitude.

"...Calvin's piety of suffering is now clear. We are indeed to voice our suffering, to speak it---thus, to name it and own it. But are we to cry out for deliverance? That's not clear; if something is for my good but unpleasant, do I ask to be delivered from it? What is abundantly clear is that one does not cry out Why? because we know why. Suffering is sent by God for our good. There is no mystery. God is neither absent nor or God's ways in these manners mysterious."


{Tommy: So, according to Calvin, I am better off that my daughter was killed. And I should be grateful that she was taken. And I am supposedly acquiring a huge dose of patience and a huge breastplate against sin because, after all, this suffering is God's idea of a good reform school to keep me from the allures of sin. So according to Calvin, I should be thankful that my life has not flourished nor will it since my child died. And I am to bear all this with patience and gratitude. But to do that, I would have to stifle the lament, and essentially numb myself to my otherwise obvious pain --- now it seems like he's not much different from Augustine and the other stoics who wanted to somehow disown their own touch with reality and therefore their own human feelings. 

Is that how I really view my loving Lord, or do I align more with a fellow grieving father, Nicholas Wolterstorff who proclaims:}


"So I join the psalmist in lament. I voice my suffering, naming it and owning it. I cry out. I cry out for deliverance: 'Deliver me, O God, from this suffering. Restore me, and make me whole.' I cry out for explanation, for I no more know in general why things have gone awry with respect to God's desire than did the psalmist. 'Why, O God, is this happening? Why is Your desire, that each and every one of us should flourish here on earth until full of years,  being frustrated? It makes no sense.' 

"To lament is to risk living with one's deepest questions unanswered."

"The cry occurs within the context of the yet of enduring faith and ongoing praise, for in raising Christ from the dead, we have God's word and deed that God will be victorious in the struggle against all that frustrates God's desire. Thus divine sovereignty is not sacrificed but reconceived. 

"If lament is indeed a legitimate component of the Christian life, then divine sovereignty is not to be understood as everything happening just as God wants it to happen---or happening in such a way that God regards what God does not like as an acceptable trade-off for the good thereby achieved.  

"Divine sovereignty consists in God's winning the battle against all that has gone awry with respect to God's will."

~Nicholas Wolterstorff

{Tommy and Angie: "And O, how we long for that Day!}

Thank you to Professor, and Grieving Father Nicholas Wolterstorff for all of his research and heart's cry over his son that we have been able to benefit from together. May we all seek, together, to grow in God's wisdom even as we may have to respectfully challenge some of our forefathers in the faith from time to time...

Research, from pages 84 - 92 of Hearing the Call: Liturgy, Justice, Church and the World 

(Collection, 2011 Nicholas Wolterstorff, published in 2011 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday's Woe Weeping and Gnashing ~Tommy Prince

Wednesday's Woe

Weeping and Gnashing

~Tommy Prince

Scripture's description of Hell...

"They will throw them into the fiery furnace, 
where there will be 
weeping and gnashing of teeth."

~Matthew 13:42

We survived Thanksgiving by being extremely low-key. Literally shutting all the doors, closing the curtains, and turning off all the phones. But, for a Child-Loss Griever, what happens when you have peace and quiet? Keep everybody away... and the grief surfaces. I didn't know how much until my nightmare yesterday morning… 

Hope for our daughter…

Emotionally, we were forever expending energy, trying to help her. Angie and I spent all our emotional, and much of our physical energy, trying to save her from herself...

“Last forever!' Who hasn't prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.” 

The Nightmare that Never Goes Away…

I awakened yesterday morning from a nightmare. When I awakened from my nightmare, I didn't experience the typical response of, "Thank goodness that was a dream and not real life!" Usually my nightmares would consist of the typical, 

"I'm on a trip somewhere but I can never seem to find my destination; I am lost." 


"I've got an exam coming up in a college class, but I haven't even studied for it." 

…so that, when I wake up, I can breathe a sigh of relief: 

"O, that was just a dream!"

But no. This time, I awakened, as I have over these past 6 years after her death, from a nightmare about her, to an internal scream of, 

"O Hell No!!!" 

And emotionally, I am a mess.

In my nightmare, she had been in some form of treatment, and was home on a pass, but a woman was here with her saying, "She's got to go back---there's a technicality not attended to, so she has to go back 'to fill out a form.'" I was furious. 

What A Cruel Joke:  
"She's here, but you can't have her."

I wake up, as I said, to my internal screams of  

 "O Hell No! 
"Having to live without her is a living nightmare!" 

It seems I've always got a simmering growl underneath the surface. I feel a constant tension in my jaw. Weeping and gnashing are going on all the time inside me at an unconscious level. 

Yes, I will go through the motions of life during my day, but…

My clumsiness tells on me…

High blood pressure tells on me…

Tension in my jaw tells on me…

Nightmares tell on me...

It's like at some deep level there is always weeping and gnashing going on in my heart and soul.

Perhaps this is really "the new normal" for Child-Loss Grievers, better defined as
"The New Hell-on-Earth Normal"! 

Everything in me, for some unexplainable reason, is trying to keep her alive and keep her home, but it's not working. 

My Life's Call: Keep my child alive. 
Mission: Failed.

Pictures - Top, Dark Sky, thanks to Grieving Mother, Nancy Tuz
Below, Climbing the Heavens, thanks to Grieving Mother, Darlene Thomas

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tuesday's Trust - Child-Loss: Hurricane to My Faith? ~Tommy Prince

Tuesday's Trust

Child-Loss: Hurricane to My Faith?

~Tommy Prince

"What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?"

"Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking.”

The Death of Our Teenaged Daughter… 

Hurricane to My Faith?


Her death has changed everything about how I approach my faith. Everything.


“'Last forever!' Who hasn't prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.” 



I am a drummer. I have always had a rhythm going through my head… That is until the lights went out. Light turned to Dark. Sound turned to a Dusty Nothingness...


“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” 


Christian Music…

Before her death, I could pretty much enjoy most of the Christian music out there...

After Merry Katherine was killed, for quite awhile, I didn't want to hear any of it. Over time, there's been a little bit of opening, and I can hear a select type of song now.


Corporate Worship:

Forget going to church. In terms of a corporate worship experience? No Desire. It seems Grievers and Non-Grievers don't mix well.


“Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?” 

“There is always the temptation in life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for years on end. It is all so self conscious, so apparently moral...But I won't have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous...more extravagant and bright. We are...raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.” 


Intimacy with God:

“We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if ever we wake, to the silence of God. And then, when we wake to the deep shores of time uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it's time to break our necks for Home.

"There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times.” 

“You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” 


I find myself being very shy about approaching the throne of grace. Casualness about my spiritual life has been eliminated. I cannot take anything for granted now.

The Assuredness Factor has been shattered. When I hear people talk about spirituality in a superficial way, it is Anathema to me.

Scripture very clearly states, "You will know they are My disciples by how they love on each other."

(Jesus speaking,) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

~John 13:34-35 NASB

But all I hear are either fear-based ideations, or superficial claims on God with no love in it. There's a false sense of confidence, and a false sense of power. There seems to be no awe of God in the religiosity around us. 


"On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ” 


True Power...

We are not the one in charge here: God is. 

The Bible is not like a menu where you can select what you want.



Child-Loss in regard to my faith is like a hurricane that has swept the foundation right out from under me, and I've collapsed in on myself…

There is no spiritual "FEMA" coming to my rescue. Quite the opposite. Everyone disappears. The recovery period to renovate my faith is snail-slow and turtle-tedious… one centimeter at a time.


“What does it feel like to be alive?

"Living, you stand under a waterfall. You leave the sleeping shore deliberately; you shed your dusty clothes, pick your barefoot way over the high, slippery rocks, hold your breath, choose your footing, and step into the waterfall. The hard water pelts your skull, bangs in bits on your shoulders and arms. The strong water dashes down beside you and you feel it along your calves and thighs rising roughly backup, up to the roiling surface, full of bubbles that slide up your skin or break on you at full speed. Can you breathe here? Here where the force is the greatest and only the strength of your neck holds the river out of your face. Yes, you can breathe even here. You could learn to live like this. And you can, if you concentrate, even look out at the peaceful far bank where you try to raise your arms. What a racket in your ears, what a scattershot pummeling!

"It is time pounding at you, time. Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation's short time falling away as fast as rivers drop through air, and feeling it hit.” 



And now, Christmas is upon us. The hope of the Christ Child. The answer to all our fears about death. The solution to the wrecked results of our child's demise. The one and only way we can survive Grief.


“I am sorry I ran from You. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For You meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel Love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid.” 

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” 

(In the Annie Dillard quotes, some capitalizations, mine)

Picture, thanks to grieving mother, Faye Marie Miller
Quotes, Annie Dillard, thanks to Goodreads
Scripture, NASB = New American Standard Bible

Monday's Mourning Ministry Empty Arms ~Reba McEntire ~Lyrics revised for bereaved parents

Monday's Mourning Ministry

Empty Arms

~Reba McEntire

~Lyrics revised for bereaved parents

Empty Arms

~Reba McEntire

*lyrics revised for bereaved parents, in bold

Empty arms
That long for you
And they wait,
Dear, just for you

And these arms
Will stay this way
Till you return
To them some Day

Each lonely night
I go to bed
I hug the pillow
Where you used to lay your head

Empty arms
But not for long
I'll join my baby, 
when I go Home…

And when I
Walk through Heav'n's Door
These empty arms
I'll have no more


And when I
Walk through Heav'n's door,
These empty arms
I'll have no more

These empty arms
I'll have no more


Scriptures for Bereaved Parents:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

~John 14:1-4, NIV

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a Country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better Country—a Heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a City for them.

~Hebrews 11:13-16, NIV

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:39-40, NIV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

~Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the City that is to come.

~Hebrews 13:14, NIV

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

~1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, NIV

(Some capitalizations, mine)

NIV = New International Version of The Holy Bible

Friday, November 23, 2012

Saturday's Sayings - What is Grief? - Part One ~written by Debra Carter and many grieving mothers...

Saturday's Sayings

What is Grief?

Part One

~written by grieving mother, 
Debra Carter 
and many grieving mothers...

What is Grief!

~via grieving mother, Darlene Thomas

  • Grief is more than just a constellation of feelings in response to a loss.

~via grieving mother, Jill Compton

  • Grief does not fade with the passage of time. We do not realize our losses in an instant; we realize them over years. We do not get over it, but instead go through it, not just once, but many times.

~via grieving mother, Faye Marie Miller. taken at Hummingbird Haven

  • Grief changes form and eludes definition. 

~The Compassionate Friends/USA

  • Grief sits on your chest, punches you in the gut, squeezes your throat, winds everything up breaking-point tight, and sucks the energy out of you.


  • Grief is rejected offerings and ungranted prayers.

~via Grieving Mothers

  • Grief is feeling guilty because we did not stop death, could not revert death, and cannot change death.

    ~In Memory of Lost Loved Ones

    • Grief is unabashedly wailing and drowning in your own snot and tears.

      ~In Memory of Lost Loved Ones

      • Grief is the yearning, the reaching, and the unrequited love that hides behind our losses.

      ~In Memory of Lost Loved Ones

      • Grief is celebration.

      ~ via Debra Carter who says, "Angie, I wrote this from many (others' feelings) along with mine. The authors are many grieving Mom's."

      Black Friday Thoughts - Child-Loss Grief Redefines Values

      Black Friday Thoughts

      Child-Loss Grief Redefines Values

      Tommy and I were talking this "Black Friday" morning about how our values have been redefined, or perhaps better, clarified, since entering Child-Loss Grief. How many years when our children were young did I hit the malls early on Black Friday to get the best deals? I noticed I just wore myself out and exposed myself to many germs just in time to get sick for the holidays. And for what? 

      As Tommy says "Child-Loss has exposed our stupidity!" "Stupidity": the things we get caught up in without thinking. It was easy for me to get caught up in the hubbub of the season just because everyone else was doing it and we could save a few dollars... That is, if we don't end up impulse buying along with it ...which I usually did, also getting caught up in the "magic" of the season, rather, more accurately, getting caught up in the "magical thinking" of the season. We tried to recreate the "magic" we felt we had had as children for our own children, yet what did we do? Over-indulge them? Probably.

      We have had to reconsider all our actions, and when you are looking forward to having a Christmas to yourself, with nobody around, it helps you to stop and think, "What's really important here?" Of course, for us, the age of our living children helps tremendously. It seems much wiser to give them a more reasonable amount of money so that they can find what they most want instead of us taking energy we don't have to track down those items. So this form of giving becomes the extent of our involvement with "stuff," and that is more apropos to where we really are these days. 

      Then it seems we are left with more energy for enjoying the proverbial "real reason for the season" which is captured in the picture at the top of our post. 

      Picture, thanks to blog: "Stuff Christians Like" by Jon Acuff

      Thursday, November 22, 2012

      Friday's Faith - Requiem: Eric Wolterstorff in Memoriam - Part III - We Are Not Alone in Our Suffering; God Shares It With Us / The Empty Chair

      Friday's Faith

      Requiem: Eric Wolterstorff in Memoriam

      Part III:

      We Are Not Alone in Our Suffering; 

      God Shares It With Us

      Part III

      In all our afflictions he is afflicted,
      …and the angel of his presence saves us;
      in his love and pity he redeems;
      …he lifts us up and carries us all our days.
      Isaiah 63:9

      He bears our griefs
      …and carries our sorrows;
      by his wounds we are healed.
      Isaiah 53:4, 5

      Picture thanks to ~Love and Missing You So

      Thursday's Therapy - A Call to Lament - Part Three ~Nicholas Wolterstorff ~Blessed Thanksgiving

      Thursday's Therapy

      A Call to Lament

      Part Three

      ~Nicholas Wolterstorff

      Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

      If God Is Good and Sovereign, Why Lament?

      Praise and lament --- two components of the Christian life. There are more, of course, many more. Repentance, for example. But at least these two: praise and lament.

      Or is that true? Are both of these really parts of the Christian life? No one doubts that praise of God is part of the Christian life. There may be times in our lives when we find it difficult to praise God, yet no believer doubts that praise is a component within the well-formed Christian life. But what about lament? 

      No doubt most Christians, if asked, would say that lament is part of the well-formed Christian life. We all know that there are laments in the Psalms; we all sing them, or participate in their reading. So it would not feel right to say, flat out, that lament has no place in the Christian life. 

      But it's open to question whether we all really believe it. The "victorious living" mentality currently sweeping through American Christianity has no place for lament. Likewise the megachurches have no place for it. Lament does not market well.

      If one goes beyond the words and looks at contemporary American Christianity as it actually exists---looks at how it lives its life and expresses its faith---one comes to the conclusion that most of it does not believe that lament is part of the Christian life. This is in spite of what it may think is the catechetically correct answer to give if directly asked whether it is. 

      What is lament?

      We must start by considering what lament is. I shall take the biblical laments, particularly the laments of the psalms, as my paradigms. Psalm 22 is a particularly good example, since all the basic elements are there: some of the other lament psalms are truncated. 

      The lament, at its heart, is giving voice to the suffering that accompanies deep loss, whatever that loss may be. Lament is not about suffering. Lament is not concerning suffering. Lament does not count the stages and try to identify the stage in which one finds oneself.  

      Lament is the bringing to speech of suffering, the languaging of suffering, the voicing of suffering. Behind lament are tears over loss. Lament goes beyond the tears to voicing the suffering. To voice suffering, one must name it---identify it. 

      Sometimes that is difficult, even impossible. The memories are repressed so that the suffering is screened from view. Or one is aware of it, in a way; but naming it, identifying it for what it is, would be too painful, too embarrassing. So, one resists. Then one cannot lament. One suffers without being able to lament. Lament is an achievement. 

      One must not only name one's suffering if one is to voice it; one must also own it. Instead of disowning it one has to admit it as part of who one is---a part of one's narrative identity. If someone asks, "Tell me who you are," one says, maybe not immediately but eventually,

      "I am someone who went through a painful divorce,"

      "I am someone who suffered the loss of a child,"

      "I am someone who was fired after twenty years of faithful work." 

      To disown one's suffering is to try to delete it from one's narrative or prevent it from ever becoming a part---to try to forget it, put it behind one, get on with things. Lament, in requiring that one voice one's suffering, requires that one not only name it but own it. Owning one's suffering is often difficult: it is painful or embarrassing to incorporate one's suffering into one's life story. 

      ………Listen now to the psalmist:

      ………But I am a worm and no man;
      ………….scorned by men and despised by the people.
      ………All who see me mock at me, 
      ………….they make mouths at me, they wag their heads;
      ………He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him,
      ………….let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
      (Psalm 22:6-8,  RSV)

      ………I am poured out like water, 
      ………….and all my bones are out of joint;
      ………my heart is like wax,
      ………….it is melted within my breast;
      ………my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
      ………….and my tongue cleaves to my jaw;
      ………….thou dost lay me in the dust of death.

      ………Yea, dogs are round about me;
      ………….a company of evil doers encircle me;
      ………….they have pierced my hands and feet---
      ………I can count all my bones---
      ………….they stare and gloat over me;
      ………they divide my garments among them,
      ………….and for my raiment they cast lots.
      (Psalm 22:14-18 , RSV)

      Lament is more, though, than the voicing of suffering. The mere voicing of one's suffering is complaint, not lament. Lament is a cry to God. This presupposes, of course, that lament is the action of a believer. 

      This cry to God has two main components, interconnected, with sometimes the one more prominent, sometimes the other. First, lament is the cry to God for deliverance: "Deliver me O God, from this suffering." Listen again to the psalmist:

      ………But thou, O LORD, be not far off!
      ………….O my help, hasten to my aid!
      ………Deliver my soul from the sword,
      ………….my life from the power of the dog!
      ………Save me from the mouth of the lion.
      (Psalm 22:19-21a, RSV)

      Second, lament is the cry to God of "Why?" "Why, O God, is this happening? I don't understand it. Where are you, O God? I cannot discern your hand in this darkness." 

      ………My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
      ………….Why are you so far from helping me, from the words
      ………….of my groaning?
      ………O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
      ………….and by night, but find no rest.
      (Psalm 22:1-2, NRSV)

      ………Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O LORD? 
      ………….Awake! Do not cast us off forever!
      ………Why do you hide your face?
      ………….Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
      ………For we sink down to the dust;
      ………….our bodies cling to the ground.
      ………Rise up, come to our help.
      ………….Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.
      (Psalm 44:23-26, NRSV)

      Loss, deep loss, is the shattering of meaning. The shattering of meaning at one point in one's life has rippling consequences throughout one's life; one's life as a whole threatens to lose its sense.  

      For the believer, the meaning of life is tied up with her experience and understanding of God. Now, suddenly, there is a rip in her whole fabric of meaning. So the believer cries to God---who else to cry to?---not only for deliverance from suffering but also deliverance from the threat of meaninglessness.  

      "Why, O God? Why is this happening? What sense does this make? We thought you were good, powerful, and knowledgeable. We thought we understood your ways. But of this, we can make no sense. Why is this happening? Where are you, O God? Why are you absent?"

      ………In the full-fledged lament there is one more component: a yet. The yet is an expression of the endurance of faith, or somewhat more precisely, the yet is a praise-full accounting of God's actions in the past---an accounting, thus, of the grounds of faith. Yet I will praise You. Sometimes the yet is not only retrospective but prospective. Not only have I praised you for what have been  the signs of your goodness; I will again praise you again for the goodness you will again show. 

      ………Yet you are holy, 
      ………….enthroned on the praises of Israel.
      ………In you our ancestors trusted; 
      ………….they trusted, and you delivered them.
      ………To you they cried, and were saved;
      ………….in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
      ………Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
      ………….you kept me safe on my mother's breast.
      ………On you was I cast from my birth,
      ………….and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
      ………Do not be far from me,
      ………….for trouble is near
      ………….and there is no one to help.
      (Psalm 22:3-5, 9-11 NRSV)