1How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day?
How long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God;
give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4lest my enemy say, “I have defeated you,”
and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
5But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6I will sing to the Lord,
who has dealt with me richly.
Psalm 13 (from Evangelical Lutheran Worship)
I keep toggling back and forth between grief and hope. Whether it is the news about Afghanistan or Covid, the death of a friend, another forest fire or hurricane, another diagnosis for someone I care about, I am pulled into grief. The psalmist’s cry becomes my own, “How long, O Lord?” The grief somehow opens my memories and I remember every other death, evacuation, and conflict. Memory is powerful. Sometimes a song brings me to tears. Music and memory combined are very powerful. The tears are at once exhausting and cathartic. Dreams also tend to be a common place for me to work out grief and memory. I wake up crying and feel sad but also restored. It is healthy to acknowledge our grief, whether it manifests as sadness, anger, or bewilderment. We also need rituals or totems or conversations to help us move through the grief. I am grateful for the funeral liturgy, for grief support groups, for conversations, and for certain psalms that remind me that people have been naming their grief with language for centuries.
I have found pauses for laughter and joy through good stories, read in books or watched on screen. But the moments of deep hope creep in primarily through relationships or listening as people I admire wrestle with our present condition. Sitting around a campfire with a friend on a clear evening reminds me I am not alone. Praying the prayers of intercession with my congregation has grounded me and given me hope in ways I cannot explain. Helping with monthly food distribution connects me to the community and lets me see the results of a few hours of labor–so satisfying and hopeful. Walking around my neighborhood or along the Nampa greenbelt reminds me that time marches on; one season changes to the next. There is much to grieve, but the language of faith reminds me of resurrection hope. There is also much to be learned from these last chapters, whether the past 18 months or the past 20 years. Hope is found in conversation partners, some are in my congregation and some I will never meet, I just eavesdrop thanks to webinars and podcasts. There are so many people who really do want transformation and justice and restoration and healing for their communities and world. There is hope that something new is being born. My deepest hope comes from the well of faith, sometimes my own and sometimes the faith of another human. Memory is powerful once again–memories of and stories about God who is faithful, who keeps showing up with grace and mercy for the entire world. The psalmist’s words become my own again, “I trust in your unfailing love.”
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work or watch or weep, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, comfort the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. (ELW p. 74)