In one of my desert seasons of the past, I coined a term: “sucky awesome”. People would ask how I was doing and I struggled to express how I felt: I lived with one foot mired in suckiness and the other planted solidly in awesomeness. It felt as off-balance and disorienting as it sounds.
I was grieved by people who attacked my family and me. I was buoyed by the encouragement and random acts of kindness by strangers.
I was overcome with gratitude for a job that was a perfect fit for me in every way. I was anxious because the funding for it could be pulled at any moment.
I was afraid that my marriage would not survive the difficult season we faced. I surrendered my fears and found that we were stronger than I thought because God was stronger than I thought.
I was grateful for answered prayers that my children be protected from the storm. I felt my heart sink as I heard them tell me of vitriolic conversations at school by other students who repeated the poisonous words of their parents.
I was traumatized as I saw my social circles torn in half, split right down the middle, and I watched as friends abandoned each other. I marveled as God brought new friends together out of the wreckage as we consoled each other through the countless “breakup” conversations we endured.
I was devastated as my mom suffered emergency heart surgery and then a debilitating stroke. I took solace in the knowledge that she was no longer suffering and was with her Heavenly Father when she passed away a year later.
In hard times, it is not inauthentic to celebrate the goodness that can be found in a situation–any more than it is weak to acknowledge the pain that is experienced in it. I have found, though, that holding the good and bad in tension is a cumbersome task that perplexes us, and so, to simplify matters, we often choose to focus on one end of the spectrum or the other.
But our God is a profoundly mysterious and complex God and it is no surprise to me that when I am able to hold both kinds of experiences fully in my consciousness, that I find myself closer to God. You see this happen in the Bible in the book of Psalms, that classic training manual in a practice called lament.
When I hear the word lament, I immediately think of sadness. Yet the practice is about so much more than being sad. It is about being honest and truthful–with myself, others and God. The Psalms of lament are overflowing with much more than just sadness; they are full of anger, doubt, joy, wonder, gratitude–a veritable buffet of emotion.
What makes a lament a lament is not sadness, but truth. Truth about sadness, yes, but truth about all that is going on inside a person…and then it ends with the truth about God that remains standing in the midst of the emotional carnage. It is a pronouncement of our temporary state that ends with a pronouncement of God’s permanent character.
This season gives us much to lament. Our school district announced last week to the dismay of many that it will not be reopening its schools or returning to its events this year. Many seniors are grieving the loss of their senior prom, graduations, and many other milestones.
Others are grieving the loss of their jobs and livelihoods–many of which were not only sources of income, but of purpose and meaning. Still more are mourning the loss of loved ones who have passed away because of Covid-19 or other illness or disease.
But these are all incomplete truths. If we stand only on these truths, we are missing something crucial in our grief process. It is simpler and less complicated, yes, but it is not wholly honest.
Perhaps we are not yet ready to acknowledge the whole truth. That is OK. But to fully lament, to fully tell the truth, we have to search deep inside ourselves for the other side–the awesome that inevitably goes along with the sucky. In each of the Psalms of lament, the psalmist ends with at least one truth they cling to, one truth they stand on as if it were a tiny island in the midst of dark, swirling waters threatening to engulf them.
Today is the day ironically named Good Friday, when it seemed the complete suckiness of Jesus’ incomprehensible and completely senseless death was going to devour the earth in hopelessness. And yet…a miracle of awesomeness was birthed from the suckiness, that could only be brought about because the suckiness occurred. Our God specializes in “sucky awesome”. Without God, there is only The Sucky. God, in gracious mercy, completes the story with The Awesome. The Easter story is the apical archetype of Sucky Awesome.
What is the awesome truth or promise of God that you can cling to in this time? It is this island where we find God and his faithfulness reside. Stand on that truth and do not leave it until the waters subside. If you would like to engage in the practice of Lament with me, visit me tomorrow on YouTube HERE.
And once you’ve composed your lament, I’d love for you to share it in the comments below!