The drip, drip, drop little April showers are finally ushering in a Spring that will stay in the city – I think. I don’t mind pulling on my rain boots in the morning or carrying around an umbrella. I don’t mind at all because there are bird chirps in the morning and sun shines behind the clouds. I don’t mind because last night I wore a dress without tights for date night and lingered over coffee on the Lower East Side with my favorite human after going to an event with only tourists in attendance. I don’t mind that the rain started when we walked home because he covered me with his coat.
Rain is also the most fitting backdrop to this week of lament, nestled inside the forty day reflection of Lent. I have a hard time knowing where to store all the sadness that weighs like literal weight on my soul. I am sad for my own sin, heaped on the back of my Savior. I am sad because my sin makes the cross a necessity. But heaped upon those heaps is a sadness for whitewashed Christian fellowship.
Christ went to the cross for that, too – for all the ways we fail at Christian community, all the ways we do not trust and obey.
I’ve been thinking about Christian fellowship quite a bit lately and then I read this today in my devotional.
The way of Christian fellowship is empathy, which means we must not assume that everyone around us is fine. In our conversations, we must listen for complaints and cries and help them become laments. In our gathered worship, we must acknowledge the hurting and leave room for struggle and silence. In our counsel, we must pray with and over and for the hurting. This is essential to authentic Christian faith: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
We are not fine, that’s why Christ had to die. In his death and resurrection, He secured our freedom but we will not be truly “fine” until we meet Him in eternity. There is struggle here and the Christian community is not a place to hide that struggle, but instead a place to share it.
And, maybe, it is our ability to bear one another’s burdens well that looks different to the world. Maybe our joyful suffering together is the kind of testimony to the suffering of the cross that this generation would understand.
“To lament is to be utterly honest before a God whom our faith tells us we can trust.” from Journey to the Cross, lent devotional
When I am utterly honest, my lamenting needs trustworthy ears. If I am going to tell true words – even if they are scary or joyful or heavy or childlike – I need to tell them to the most trustworthy sort. And this is my journey through Lent, toward the throne of grace with confidence to lay down the burdens Christ wants to bear. This week the theme is lament.
I believe He is trustworthy, so I can be honest. I can and should lament the stretching divide my honesty reveals – all the ways I am an imperfect human. But I believe He is trustworthy, so I can be honest.
I can hear myself giving encouragement about honesty to close friends, “If you are truly honest, though your sadness will be great, your gladness will be greater.”
I still think that’s true. We should never sugarcoat struggle or sorrow or sin. We should not try to “get by” with whitewashed smiles and mustered courage. We should be honest about brokenness and shortcomings and tired bones.
We should be honest because He is trustworthy and ready to hear the deepest laments of our souls. If you’re like me, the lamenting process will make you want to follow someone – it will make you desperate to be swept up into someone else’s plan, someone whose plan doesn’t muck up or peter out or fade to gray.
Lamenting my own depravity during Lent is like opening my eyes to find how far I’ve foolishly paddled out to sea in my little rowboat. And it makes me look for a pilot.
I am very aware of the difference between true humility and humiliation. The former, a heart chooses in secret before the watchful eye of my persistent inner boast. The latter, is not so subtle and usually comes about because of unfortunate circumstances (see yesterday’s post) a heart tries to avoid.
We are never really humble, or at least we would never know it. Our boasting nature would not let that knowledge sit long enough for it to remain true. Even as I was reading about humility in the Lent devotional this morning, I was thinking about publishing this post.
Then I got to the end and read this closing prayer out loud.
Humble my heart before thee, and replenish it with thy choicest gifts. As water rests not on barren hill summits, but flows down to fertilize lowest vales, So make me the lowest of the lowly, that my spiritual riches may exceedingly abound. When I leave duties undone, may condemning thought strip me of pride, deepen in me devotion to thy service, and quicken me to more watchful care. When I am tempted to think highly of myself, grant me to see the wily power of my spiritual enemy; Help me to stand with wary eye on the watch-tower of faith, and to cling with determined grasp to my humble Lord; If I fall let me hide myself in my Redeemer’s righteousness, and when I escape, may I ascribe all deliverance to thy grace. Keep me humble, meek, lowly.
The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.
The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, UK. 2003.
I almost didn’t make it through to the end because I started to feel dishonest. I prayed for grace to finish the prayer as I tripped over the words. Make me the lowest of the lowly? So that my spiritual riches may exceedingly abound. And the lines I will repeat to the rest of this Saturday:
If I fall let me hide myself in my Redeemer’s righteousness, and when I escape, may I ascribe all deliverance to thy grace.
Humility is a sly fox and I won’t try to scare him out from hiding. I will just keep praying for grace to pray these prayers, believing that God is always faithful.