Recently I’ve been ruminating on the place of lament in my life, and in the life of the Church. Lament is not a posture or even an expression that I have traditionally acknowledged in my life. My personality is such that my natural “bent” is usually governed by hope, whether on an eschatological level or when I’m playing ball hockey. Generally speaking, I look for the positives and latch on to them in hopes of seeing something wonderful happen.
But as with most intersections in life, there are blind spots to living predominantly “in hope.” One such blind spot is to see the need and the value of lament. Whether you are living a life of eternal hope or simply wanting to “think positive”, lament can seem a worthless pursuit. Who wants to dwell on things that aren’t good, right, or enjoyable? One of the top cultural slogans of the last twenty years affirms that “you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.”
But can we really deny the glaring reality that things simply aren’t as they should be? Be it on a cosmic scale, or in the context of the daily grind, it seems an impossible task even for guys like me to escape the reality that we live in a broken world. So what are we to do? If I’m honest, I’ve traditionally been some-what of an escapist. Sure it may be impossible to dodge the madness that surrounds me, but I’m going to give it my best shot!
(Side Note: When I’m playing the card game “Hearts” I never try to “shoot the moon.” I just do my best and hope to avoid ending up with the queen of spades).
But lately I’ve been forced to consider lament more seriously. I’m not sure I could identify all the reasons why, but it certainly includes lifting my head out of the proverbial sand and taking a look around. Life stinks sometimes. Like a flaming pile of garbage stinks. And sometimes our cup “reeketh” over.
Since starting to work at The Dale I’ve been learning something of our church’s history in Parkdale, and I have come to lament the loss of our church building. Many moons ago we were situated on the corner of Queen St. & Callendar. Our building is no longer there. It’s now a parking lot. Sadly, this has become the reality for many churches in the city. It reflects the massive changes that have swept through the city and most of the north-western hemisphere. The Church has really screwed up in a number of ways while yielding power, and I have increasingly spent a lot of time lamenting the injustices done by the Church in the Name of God. So it’s not just the loss of buildings, or of influence, or even of people, but this lament is quite fully orbed.
Whenever I walk past the intersection of Queen & Callendar, I’m reminded of these realities, and it draws me in to a posture of lament. I grieve these things. So, is my life now one of woe? In a word, no.
In our current season of ministry in the neighbourhood of Parkdale, we have found wonderful blessings that come with a building-less Church. For starters, it’s a real reminder that the Church is the people and not the building. Beyond that however, it has encouraged us to shift from a posture of “holy-huddles” and rather than die off, we have spilled out on to the streets of our neighbourhood. We live in hope, and with lament. I’m still hopeful about all things, and the reason for this goes far beyond my personality type. It’s knowing that God is with me, and won’t desert me. That God doesn’t leave the neighbourhood when a church building is brought down. That God experiences first-hand what it is to lament and to grieve, and that God sits with us and comforts us in our grieving.
There’s real hope in that.