It was T.S. Eliot who wrote that "April is the cruelest month." But what a cruel day October 2nd was. On Monday morning we awoke to the horrifying news that another mass shooting had occurred, the worst ever in American history. 59 dead. The unleashing of a nightmare on concert-goers in Las Vegas. Over 500 injured.
At the level of human meaning, loss, and trauma...we struggle to process what has happened. As I struggled to process the news on Monday, a piece of a poem popped into my head: "things fall apart; the center cannot hold." Who wrote that, I wondered? It was William Butler Yeats' The Second Coming. Yeats, writing in the aftermath of the First World War, gave poetic voice to the madness of violence:
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
It is a terrifying poem, one born out of the maelstrom of trench warfare and senseless violence. That is what it felt like for so many on Monday: "things fall apart; the center cannot hold." Out of the experience of trauma comes the language of lament. And for lament, we need not look far to find potent expression. The poetry of the Bible's hymnal, the Psalms is suffused with the language of lament.
How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? (Ps. 89:46). Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love ceased forever? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion? (Ps. 77: 7-9). Brutal, honest questions. That's the language of lament.
On the cross, Jesus cried out in the language of Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The Psalm doesn't end in lament, however. It ends with praise to God. The poetry of the Psalm echoes the poetry of our human emotions. We cannot enter into the language of resurrection until we give honest voice to the language of lament. May God heal the wounds of the many brokenhearted throughout our land.