10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
and sustain me with a willing spirit.
The practice of lamenting is heard deeply through the Psalms. Today’s Psalm 51 is a continuation from Tuesday, in which King David longs to be cleaned and forgiven: “Create in me a clean heart.” Particularly in the season of Lent, many Catholic communities read and chant through the Psalms. In fact, the Orthodox Christian community prays through the Psalms once a week throughout the year, and twice a week during Lent. The Psalms give us words for the hurts and longings of life, particularly when life feels broken.
As a spiritual practice, I encourage you to write your laments down! Maybe there are hurts that are hard to express. Maybe these laments feel like they come from deep within, or maybe they sit just below the surface all the time. Either way, when you freely lament by writing, you give fresh voice to that hurt or despair. Sometimes it may even help you find your way through the questions and longings of the soul.
During a personally challenging time a few years ago, I started journaling my thoughts by beginning, “Dear God….” Later I realized this was the spiritual practice of lamenting. It helped in my own faith journey by increasing my personal awareness. I found it changing my connection to the divine.
Throughout the Psalms, lamenting often closes with the reasons the writer wants to conquer grief. Who doesn’t want to feel better when we are lost in despair? “Return to me the joy of my salvation” – that is what King David is longing for. Most of us can relate. When we hurt, we want our situation to change. But while we’re waiting, when we can see no way around or through our pain, let us lament!
Writing a lament may be as simple as writing a word or name to meditate on, or even a letter to the Holy One. It could be about the mundane details of the day, or it could be a drawing or even a poetic reflection. Scholars don’t have to debate your literary form, so just write. Sharing what you feel will be a gift to yourself and your Creator.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
In the 1970’s, author Judy Blume wrote a young adult book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which sounds like lamenting to me. Here is an excerpt about a young girl’s lament of New Jersey:
“Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. We’re moving today. I’m so scared, God. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everybody there hates me? Please help me God. Don’t let New Jersey be too horrible.”
Perhaps your writing seems trivial or everyday, but it can change your dialog with God. What do you wish to lament during Lent? How could daily writing change your awareness or speech to the Divine? Take a moment today to lament your worries, fears and frustrations.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the writings of the Psalms. I hear the language of lamenting and your voice through these words from long ago. Help me to see writing or reading the Psalms with fresh eyes and ears, especially during Lent. Whether I feel joy or despair, help me to find ways to connect to you. Amen.