Monday, February 22, 2016

How Long Oh Lord: A Lament

I started writing this a couple weeks back. Since then, the flu has laid me low (seriously, I am STILL sick over two weeks later), and we have shared our story of faith and one-step-at-a-time calling with a conference full of teenagers and adorable-awkward preteens. We had to remind ourselves a few times, we are not frauds. We told each other, we do what we do because we have been brought here step-by-sometimes-painful-step.

Even still, I keep fumbling my way through all of this life. Because these aren't our stories, completely. But they are our stories, because our hearts are all entwined, and they belong to us as much as we belong to them, and we all belong together (do you see how confusing this is? Welcome to my brain). The mind-numbing exhaustion of six months of sleep deprivation (why oh why don't I produce babies who like sleep?) stack right on top of heart exhaustion, perhaps. And so I hit publish with trembling fingers, certain I have no answers and leaning hard into the thinnest places where grace covers and fills me most.
In a few hours I will leave to attend a funeral for a nineteen year old boy shot and killed last week. I don’t really know what to say, so I start a load of laundry. For once, I carefully sort out the colors and darks, piling whites into one big load and turning the water to hot. I fold the basketball jerseys, still warm from the dryer. They still carry the slight scent of sweat and adolescence, despite the double wash and three bounce sheets I gave them after last night’s game. I kick our washing machine when it tilts off balance and bangs loud, waking Isaiah from tenuous sleep. I try to feed him hurriedly, sweeping mascara over my lashes and tucking some kleenex into my purse before we slip out the door. Gray skies begin to cast drizzle across my windshield, in just the right amount to defy any windshield wiper setting. I pick up the two boys we have known and loved for five years now, and I drive them to their cousins’ funeral. One tells me he is a pallbearer. Unsure about how to help teenage boys handle grief, I tease him a little for wearing acid-washed slim fit overalls for the task.

We pull up at the church and I shield Isaiah’s face from the rain while we run to the doors, slipping into a pew near the back. I try to avoid the open casket, and to ignore the sniffling row of little kids wearing t-shirts with the teen’s smiling face behind me. I turn around once to see tears running in rivulets down their faces, quickly facing back to the altar while the whole motley crowd sings amazing grace in halting sopranos and altos peppered by wails. Palpable grief settles on the shoulders of his friends, young men with broad shoulders and stoney faces who occasionally allow themselves to shudder with sobs. When his little sister gets up to sing Take Me to the King, I last as long as the first line “truth is I’m tired,” before I feel my own tears slip down my face. I am tired, I think. Tired of carrying so much grief, of contact burns.

I barely knew him, really. Nineteen years old and we met only a handful of times. Laughed together over pancakes and spilled syrup, and hugged after a football game where he played against the anteaters. But the loss gapes like a wound and I cant apply enough pressure to stop the bleeding. Mostly, I feel numb. Which scares because I wonder what that means about my heart. Numbness is a bad sign, right? When the tragic turns commonplace, and we tie a tourniquet to stop the flow of emotion and hurt that threatens to drown us. I hug both boys I brought after they lower his body into the ground while the crowd shivers and rain falls cold on slumped shoulders. They both cry into my arms, and I wipe my own tears mingled with the rain.

The more we experience, the less I know. This seems backwards, like my knowledge should increase with experience, with age, with life. But I find myself with more questions and less answers as each day spins by. A third child reminds us that all we thought we knew about parenting and getting babies to sleep in their cribs is mostly party tricks I can barely remember at 2am six months in.

All the things I thought I knew flit away on the notes of a song sung by a little girl at her big brother’s funeral. They tangle themselves up in church politics. They slip past the shaky knees of the teenager who rids herself of her third baby over a toilet. They slide into dark corners where the flickering light seems faint at best. What is left to hope in when nothing turns the way it should and I disappoint myself at every step. When my voice grows hoarse from shouting, my heart grows weary with opening my door to strangers. A crisis of faith, clinging to the heels of six months without sleep, seems the best way to describe the gaping silence that echoes from the other side of my prayers.

I stare into the darkness and ask in a trembling whisper,
How long oh Lord?

With shuddering breaths, I realize that the only way through the darkness is to go deeper into it. Deeper and deeper still, until perhaps we might start to see a small flicker of light on the other side. Grieving together as holy work, walking into the darkness with hands clasped tight in recognition of sacred space. To not fear the darkness and the questions it carries, but to recognize and embrace all the ways darkness might mark new beginnings. The mother bird whose wings flutter over the deepest dark to bring forth a spark of something new.

Because brokenness is not the end, but the beginning.


  1. My heart hurts with you, the other night I sat with my boys and they rattled off so many names of our boys who've been killed since January 1st and I wonder how much more I can handle. I love you and I'm praying for you.

  2. Heavy to read, Becca. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Such deep truths...He is near. When the shadows start to be a part of the darkness, it means there is light beginning to come in to the heartache. You are brave and precious.

  4. girl...:(
    I'm praying. My heart knows this feeling all too well . Love you lots!!

  5. Thank you, as always, for blogging. Your words go straight to my heart & from there straight to our Father who knows all & who cares more than we could ever imagine. Praying for you today, Becca.


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