This is a lament.
Four years ago, Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) ran a story of mine called “When Your Church Leaves You.” The story reflected on situations—like the one in my own church at the time—when staying put in the midst of conflict might be the best choice.
I should have known better. All too often, what I write comes back to bite me. So it is now, when my two primary sources of community—the same church and a hobby whose members I have loved and trusted for years—are enduring massive upheaval.
The church may suffer irreparably from the looming showdown in our Episcopal diocese, whose bishop is defying a mandate for marriage equality from the U.S. Episcopal Church. The hobby is more personal. A deep clash of personalities, set alight by controversy and accusations and Facebook posts that would set your hair on fire, has severely damaged the sense of family we have long enjoyed.
I wonder if this is what divorce feels like, especially for children. The constant sadness. The loss of something cherished. The sense of betrayal. The deep grief you’d expect in such circumstances, and the bitterness that sometimes accompanies grief.
I know that members of my church and my hobby are experiencing similar things. So are millions of other people. Many Americans (me included) look at the events of the past two years and see a homeland they do not recognize. They feel their whole country has left them. I believe the toxin in our public discourse has infected many corners of our life together.
The ESA article, as I mentioned, included some helpful insights, some ways to make sense of the disasters around us and move forward. This time round, I’ve got nothing. Just sorrow. Just bitterness.
So I’m stuck with lament. Which may be the best thing I could be stuck with.
Lament—at least the way I’m understanding it—is not about blaming or shaming or even whining. It’s not another missile in the war of words. It does give voice to hard, honest things from the core of our being. It provides space to grieve without trying to fix. It gazes unblinkingly at the mess before us.
From what I’ve read, lament can lead to happier things, like hope and dialogue and a turning away from wrongdoing. The big challenge is to let lament do its work. It’s easy to jump to reconciliation or proposed solutions, and those are wonderful things. But sometimes the sorrow is deep enough, and the situation grave enough, that the happy stuff is out of our reach.
So it is here. And so I will leave it here.