“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)
School is out and the second official week of summer break is almost complete. This time last year my son was getting ready for a week at baseball camp (new grip on his bat, a new water bottle, and some of that stuff ball players put under their eyes), to be followed by a week at Grandma’s house. Summer vacation is a time to unwind, attend weddings, and pause from the busyness of life. Summer is my favorite time of the year. I spent every summer as a teenager in the woods of Goshen, Virginia. I worked for the Boy Scouts of America as a lifeguard and medic. I have fond memories of those summers and still keep in regular contact with my fellow camp counselors. Childhood summers truly are one of the best times of my life.
Yesterday morning was a train wreck in our house and not the start to summer vacation we had hoped for. Just a few days into summer vacation Camden, our 6-year-old son, realized that with school now completed he was not going to receive his “birthday bag” from his teacher. Mrs. Mehrnama would send each child whose birthday was over the summer break home with a bag full of books and goodies. The hastened departure from school in March along with no opportunity for students to gather together at the end of year meant Camden did not receive a bag he had been looking forward to receiving since September.
Yesterday morning was full of anger, tears, and questions. We moved through each of these until we got the root of Camden’s grief.
In the middle of the Bible there is a book of writings that are easy to skip over as you thumb your way from Leviticus to the Gospels. Lamentations is a book full of poems about grief, loss, pain, and heartache.
Learning to lament is not something I recall doing as a child. I did not take a course in lamenting while in seminary. A brief look back at my class notes shows that we spent all of a few minutes on Lamentations while I was studying the Hebrew Bible. Author Rob Bell notes to lament is a “artform” that “many people weren’t ever taught.” Lamenting though, is “necessary to be health, whole, and fully alive.”
Lament is something we do individually and as a community. To lament is to turn towards our Creator, asking and wrestling with difficult questions knowing the answers we seek may not always be apparent.
Yesterday morning Camden realized that with the conclusion of the school year his summer was going to look very different from last year.
Baseball camp. Cancelled.
EverWonder camp. Cancelled.
Orioles and Nationals baseball games. Only viewable on television.
Waterslide at the pool. Closed.
Your list might look similar or completely different, but in the midst of a global pandemic we all are finding ourselves with anger, tears, and questions. It can feel like the grief, loss, pain, and heartache we are experiencing is isolated to our own experience, but we worship a God who understands our anger, tears, and questions. In the fullness of Christ, the anger, tears, and questions of our lives did not remain here with us, rather the emotions we feel, the lament we lift up is heard, it is received by the One who created each of us.
Today was a better morning. We mapped out our day and our weekend. We filled up an inflatable pool in the backyard and put air in our bike tires. While an inflatable pool and bike ride cannot erase the grief, loss, pain, and heartache we all are feeling, the pool and bike will serve as an escape so that when the anger, tears, and questions return, we will be prepared to turn towards God. God is ready to receive the prayers of a 6-year-old by missing his baseball teammates and 36-year-old dad who is missing watching his son hit dingers.