We typically open our Wednesday night gatherings with a song, but on this particular week our resident who leads music said she just couldn’t think of an appropriate song. We were prepared to discuss seasons of disorientation and lament, but our typical repertoire of music was not up for the task.
Reading Walter Brueggemann’s Spirituality of the Psalms, we moved through the scheme of Orientation, Disorientation, and New Orientation that he uses to interpret the psalms. The stage of disorientation reflects the lament psalms in Scripture, a high percentage of the songs and poems contained in the book.
We quickly realized that the modern “psalter” we had learned in church (a few hymns and lots of contemporary worship music) failed to capture the lament so prevalent in Scripture itself. If not an complete lack, there is certainly a disproportionate number of positive and hopeful (orientation) songs in many church’s hymnals and worship song portfolios. No one in our community could remember the last time they sang a lament song in corporate worship.
Sometimes, singing a song of orientation during disorientation can be a bold proclamation of hope that things are not as they will ultimately be. But often, singing purely happy songs during orientation is actually a numb denial of the reality and suffering. Often, a refusal to acknowledge lament serves as a form of social control, where the dominant group refuses to allow suffering. And certainly, as Brueggemann helps us see, this is not the approach of Scripture. Nor is it the approach of all churches, for those who have suffered at the hands of oppressors have often sung their lament communally and before God.
In an effort to discover and name this music that captures our experiences and emotions during times of disorientation, our residents created a playlist called "kendrick lament" that we are happy to share.
Shortly after writing this, the news broke that 59 people died and hundreds more injured in the mass shooting in Las Vegas, reminding us of the painful need for lament yet again. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.