This post is part of a series of reflections in response to the spiritual practices in Beth A. Richardson’s book Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent. Last week, I reflected on the practice of being present.
As we continue our journey through this Lenten season, I have been focusing on the practice of lament this week. I am grateful to my guide, Beth A. Richardson. I deeply appreciate the way she describes lament.
I have engaged in the practice of lament for nearly 15 years, but having a new guide helped me to engage in and practice lament in new ways this week. I wrote about lament during Lent last year. In that post, I explain how I became acquainted with the practice, my understanding of lament, and how it has been helpful to me over the years.
Here I am, a year later, with perhaps more to lament. My dad is receiving hospice care as he nears the end of his life, one of our children is in the midst of a particularly challenging season, and my heart breaks when I read the news. I needed to engage this practice right now, and I didn’t realize quite how much until I did.
In the past, my practice of lament has mostly taken the from of praying psalms of lament and praying freeform prayers of lament to God for myself, others I know, or the world, without paying attention to form and pattern. What I found particularly helpful this week was the reminder that biblical lament follows a particular pattern: address, complaint, petition, affirmation, resolution. I noticed it in the psalms of lament I prayed. And I employed it when I engaged the practice of writing my own lament. (I created this template from Beth A. Richardson’s guide to writing your own lament, if you want to engage in the practice yourself.)
I found that the form and pattern served as a permission slip and a framework that enabled me to share freely and without holding back. The prayers of lament I wrote this week are too personal to share; they were helpful because they were fully authentic, written for no audience other than God. The practice of writing them was healing for me, and I am grateful. My circumstances haven’t changed; my life is not easier; and yet, I was reminded that I am not in this alone. I can trust God to work in the midst of even my deepest sorrow and most difficult day.
Finally, I want to share this prayer that blessed me this week with its truth.