I sat in the front row of a mostly empty church, hands clasped, mouths covered with a mask. Appropriately spaced throughout the sanctuary were a handful of pastors and ministry leaders in our city, gathered together for a prayer vigil on account of the hard realities currently facing our nation. Hard realities — that phrase doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is bubbling and surfacing right now. It’s not that racism didn’t exist before this year. It’s not that Black and brown bodies have never been oppressed, controlled, or killed before. But it’s the cumulative effect of it all. So much loss and pain has happened in such a short period of time, and the memory of all the lives who have been cut short in the past are all too near.
That evening, I stepped into that space, feeling tired and emotionally fatigued. It’s hard to even explain the roller coaster of emotions that a person of color experiences in witnessing and processing so much death and violence against the Black community.
Anger. Rage. Fear. Emptiness. Pain. Exhaustion.
But tonight was exactly where I needed to be. With my eyes closed and my hands open wide, I received the first prayer of the evening:
God, we lament for what’s happening in our country.
We lament the loss of life You say is valuable,
that You say is important,
and that was created in your image.
We cry tonight. We lament tonight. We mourn.
One after another, men and women, Black, brown, and white, all stood up and lamented the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Mike Ramos, and so many more. Every single one cried out to God and let the pent-up pain of too many weeks spill out into words before our Father.
I never knew how much I needed to mourn communally until that night. That night, we all came together to acknowledge not just the brokenness in our society but also in ourselves. Lament and confession go hand in hand, and oh, did we all have much to confess. The white Christians present confessed their own sins of racism, of ignorance, and turning a blind eye to the pains of communities of color in the past. Christians of color, including myself, confessed times when we’ve stayed silent and when we’ve chosen not to stand in solidarity for fellow Black and brown men and women.
That night of prayer was the first step toward solidarity with our Black and brown communities who are hurting right now. More than that, it was an act of public witness where we created space to go before God, lift our voices up, hear from His Word, and consider how our own sins and failures have led to our current predicament right now. We prayed together for God to orient our hearts, minds, and bodies toward love and justice.
Lament is a biblical response to the reality of suffering, and it’s what we need right now.
Each of us need to take all that we’re feeling and experiencing, and everything happening in our country right now and lay them before our God in heaven. We must pray as the Psalmist does in Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes up to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” We’ve all seen or personally experienced the racial tension in our country, and the starting point for change, healing, and solidarity moving forward has to be lament and confession to God.
So many people are asking me right now what they should be doing, and I get it. We want to do something. There’s a lot of people who are growing in their racial consciousness for the very first time. This topic is completely new to so many and people want to start reading all the books and having all the conversations on race and justice. And those are good things to do in time. But before we act, we need to first lament — lament the deaths of image bearers, lament a long, dark history in which Black and brown bodies haven’t been treated as equal to white bodies, lament our own ignorance to this history — perhaps even our own complicity.
Our aim for this current reality in our country shouldn’t be to just have a conversation on race. Instead, we should lead with lament. Pray, lament, and confess — repeat. That’s what I’ve challenged myself to do during these gut-wrenching days. Every day, a new video, a new threat, a new assault. Lamenting before God is the only way I know to channel my rage. More than that, prayer and lament form the foundation for my activism. It’s only if we’re doing these things on repeat that we can humbly begin to have those conversations about race, reparations, and reform.
Friend, will you lament with me today?
The starting point for change, healing, and solidarity moving forward has to be lament and confession to God. -@drmichellereyes: Click To Tweet