Can we grieve?

It started less than a month ago with a terrorist attack – an event that was simultaneously a hate crime and the worst mass shooting in modern American history. After which, we were granted a reprieve just like any other tragedy, even as they become more frequent.

Then this week happened.

One horrific shooting, broadcast so that the world could watch. What we saw was not justice. Twenty-four hours later, we watched another unnecessary loss of life, live on facebook the aftermath of another officer involved shooting. Then on the third night, another act of terror as a sniper (or snipers) fired into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing five police officers and wounding more.

Ever feel like you can’t catch a breath?

My old high school wrestling coach put us through something he lovingly called hell practices – run until you puke, pushups until you collapse, crunches until you can’t breathe, and then repeat. Never a chance to stop and rest – done with one thing and on to the next. Suck it up and keep moving.

That is what this last week feels like to me. Hell. But this wasn’t practice. This is reality. Senseless acts of violence, one after another. I want a moment to breathe but then it happens again. I find myself crying out “God just make it stop.”

Can we take some time to breathe and reflect upon all we have lost in the past few days? Or are going to suck it up and move on to the next tragedy?

My favorite book in the Bible is Lamentations. It seems to fit my melancholy disposition. A few short chapters of vivid poetry filled with bitter complaints and yet brimming with hope. More than anything else, this biblical entry taught me that it is OK to be sad, to be hurt, to be emotionally wounded. Lamentations teaches us it is OK to grieve and mourn – that there is a time to lament. It showed me how an expression of sorrow could be the deepest act of worship imaginable.

Within its verses, the author penned these words: “Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.”

And later: “For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.”

Is this how we feel right now as American people?

The lament does not end there. The writer continues to mourn the loss of his country and the destruction of his city. Half way through the book, he shakes it off and shifts into a divergent tone and direction. These verses have long been etched into my mind. Words which I have memorized and frequently recall when I am feeling down. Monday night, with the sounds of fireworks exploding all around my apartment, I took some colored pencils and transcribed them onto a blank sheet of paper that is now posted to the inside of my bathroom door so that I see them at least once a day.

There is hope. Even now when it doesn’t seem like it. Even last night as chaos erupted in Dallas. Even as young black men are killed by police. Even a few weeks ago on a terrible Sunday morning at the Pulse nightclub. There is hope.

The author of Lamentations understood the existence of hope. He believed in it, but it took him two and a half chapters to get there. Before he could say “great is Your faithfulness” he had to first lament. He had to speak of his brokenness before that pain could be healed.

Perhaps we as Americans need to do the same. Before we can heal, before we can see hope, maybe we just need to lament. Can we come together as a nation and mourn? Can we weep over our losses? Can we cry out in grief? Can we ask if there is any sorrow like our sorrow?

We need to demonstrate our grief. If that means we gather in the streets and protest, then let it be protests. If it means candlelight prayer vigils, then let's pray together. If that means we sit alone in our rooms and cry, then let it out. If it means we wander off into the woods and curse at the skies, I believe in a God who is big enough to hear our profanities.

Whatever it is, we need to mourn. Now is a time to lament. If we can do that, I promise you there is hope.

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