Is it nothing to all you who pass this way?Lamentations 1:12
Look and see if there is any pain like my pain
It is not always easy to give voice to our pain. To lament is to dive into the darkest corner of our soul and finally express the deepest pain that laid buried amidst the rubble. The Book of Lamentations tells the story of the sorrows of Zion. The people have transgressed and now the city of Jerusalem–once a princess among provinces–is forced to become a labourer.
Jerusalem is personified as a widow who weeps bitterly in the night. The tears are on her cheeks. There is no one to comfort her among all her lovers. Her friends have dealt with her treacherously. They have become her enemies.
The prophet Jeremiah paints not a brutal image, but one that forces us to contend with how a city feels when she has been abandoned by the people who were tasked with looking after her. The connection that a group of people feel to a particular plot of land is one that repeats itself throughout all cultures. It is not just about legal ownership, but that elusive feeling of kinship that one feels with the land.
We humans are a part of the story, yes–but the land has her own histories and her own destiny. If we go back far enough, the Biblical narrative of the Old Testament tells the story of a lineage of people seeking a land, finding the land that was promised to their forebears, losing the land and then trying to make restitution–usually by way or repentance–in order to restore it.
The transgressions of the people is identified as what caused them to lose the land of their forebears. The nation as a whole had deviated so far from God’s laws that they had broken the covenant. This had caused God to withdraw the blessings he had bestowed upon the nation.
Prophet Jeremiah, the author of the Book of Lamentations, was guided by God to proclaim that the nation of Judah would suffer famine, foreign conquest, plunder and captivity in a land of strangers.
Is it our transgressions alone that cause us misfortune? I used to think that the answer was yes. It is how we explain why we had to suffer through certain trials and difficult periods in history. We have transgressed and need to repent so that we can gain back what was lost and rebuild our lives once more. Other times, we say that we are completely innocent and that we have done nothing to deserve such a fate. How could this happen to me?
As COVID-19 emerged and global and local economies were restructured, I found myself wondering if we should blame ourselves for everything that happens to us. When we lament, we express our grief and sorrow. We were once in possession of something valuable–vis-a-via our forebears–and now we have lost it.
There are many assumptions built into this concept; that we are all on the same path and that we–as a couple, as a family or as a nation–are the bearers of a shared destiny.
Through my observations of the world, it makes no sense at all to think that a group of people exist to continuously follow the ways of their forebears into perpetuity. Change comes. Sometimes we are the ones who create the change; at other times, it is Nature.
In the case of COVID-19, it came for everyone currently alive. Some people followed the tide and rose along with it. Others were caught stranded in capsized boats. Others resisted the change that they were thrust into. Others found themselves returning home after a long expatriation.
We all had choices to make. Pivotal choices were made that led to a variety of different results. I don’t know a single person alive who didn’t have to make big changes during this period.
To lament is to express our sorrow and grief. It is necessary during certain moments of our lives to encounter our pain and to give voice to it. Our pain, however, never lasts forever. Our trials end. We move on. We see the light that emerges on the horizon. We know that no matter what happened, we have it in us to live again and breathe again.