Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 57

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees. What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city. Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird. They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me; the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to be cut off. These are just two examples among many biblical laments that demonstrate expressions of painful emotion (groaning, restlessness, terror, grief) against a backdrop of traumatic experience (mockery, ruin, destruction, violent assault, slaughter). The superscription of Psalm 22 also demonstrates that this lament was used in a context of ritual worship. The larger collections from which these laments are taken will be considered below. Lament Psalms: A Far Cry from Our “Sunday Best” The Lament Psalms teach us to pray our inner conflicts and contradictions. They allow us to shout out our forsakenness in the dark caverns of abandonment and then hear the echo return to us over and over until we bitterly recant of them only to shout them out again. They give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and then break into doxology the next.28 Laments “far outnumber any other kind of songs in the Psalter.”29 These psalms can be grouped into two broad categories: individual laments and communal laments (though delineation between the two is not always certain).30 According to Daniel J. Estes, the “focal point” of the lament is the 28. Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 23. 29. Bernhard W. Anderson, Out of the Depths (New York: United Methodist Church, 1970), 47. 30. Ibid., 51. 56