A Time to Lament

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney, Spiritual Wellness Coordinator

This is not a normal day in Nashville. Although the sun is shining brightly, some find themselves walking in a fog of grief and loss in the wake of the tornado that ravaged a swath of Middle Tennessee overnight. The clients and overnight staff at The Next Door heard the roar of the twister as it passed nearby, but our facility was undamaged. Several of our staff live in neighborhoods heavily impacted by the tornado, but none suffered injuries or major property damage.

In moments like this, those of us whose homes were unscathed by the storms find ourselves at the intersection of gratitude and grief. How do we navigate such conflicting feelings? We feel blessed. But does that mean that those who were in the storm’s path were cursed? We feel divinely protected. But does that mean that God chose not to protect those whose homes and businesses were leveled, those who are now waiting in hospital rooms with injured family members, or those who are planning funerals?

What is the proper response on a day like this? We can lament alongside our neighbors whose lives have been turned upside down by a capricious storm. We lament the loss of life, the destruction of property, the obliteration of normalcy. As we lament, we pray. We can admit to God that we do not understand why one life ends while another on the block is spared, why one home remains intact while the one next door has been ripped apart. We can ask God to show us how we can invest our energy and our resources to help those in need. We can pray for insight into the suffering of our neighbors, so that we can serve them with sensitivity and grace.

In his book Every Moment Holy: New Liturgies for Daily Life, Douglas McKelvey vividly expresses the depths of loss many of our neighbors are now experiencing. May these words give us insight so that in the days to come we can love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

“A Liturgy for Those Who Suffer Loss from Fire, Flood, or Storm”

Leader: O Christ in Whom
Our Lives are Hidden,
People: fix now our hope 
in that which alone might sustain it.

O Christ in Whom
Our Treasures are Secure,
fix now our hope in you.
In light of all that was so suddenly lost,
O Lord, in light of all we had gathered
but could not keep,
comfort us.

Our nerves are frayed, O God. Our sense
of place and permanence is shaken,
so be to us a foundation.

We were shaped by this place,
and by the living of our lives in it,
by conversations and labors and studies,
by meals prepared and shared,
by love incarnated in a thousand small
actions that became as permanent a part of this
structure as any nail or wire or plank of wood.

Our home was to us like a handprint of
heaven. It was our haven, and now we are
displaced, and faced with the task of great
labors—not to move forward in this life,
but merely to rebuild and restore
what has been lost.

Have mercy, Lord Christ.

What we have lost here, are the artifacts
of our journey in this world, the very things
that reminded us of your grace expressed
in love and friendship, and in shared experience.
It is for these reasons we grieve the loss
of our home and its contents—we grieve 
them for what they had come to signify 
in our stories, for they were charged 
with such meaning and memory, 
and woven with so much that is eternal.

O Father, we have suffered a hard loss,
and one that we cannot endure alone.
May we emerge in the months to
come—even in our frailty—stronger than
before, more deeply rooted in you, and more
wrapped in the necessary arms of community.
Give us humility to receive that which we need
and cannot repay, when it is offered by others.

We thank you for the presence of friends
who would share this burden of grief 
simply by showing up in the midst of it, 
and grieving with us. 
We thank you for small mercies
and kindnesses extended. For the
grace of thoughtfulness translated into
the tiny details of life.  For beauty.
O Lord, let us not lose sight in
our grief, of all that is yet
bursting with beauty in this world.
Let us not lose sight of the truth
that we live in the midst of an 
unfolding story of redemption, and that 
even this loss of ours will have its counterpoint
at the great restoration.

Indeed, for anything spared and salvaged,
we give you thanks. Let us see that
even in disaster, there is grace still
at work, for you know the limits
of our hearts.

Be with us now as we sift and clean,
as we slog merely to reclaim
some fraction of that which we 
once took for granted.

Be with us as we navigate the countless
details that must be tended and
decisions that must be made
between now and the time that we
begin to feel normal again.

Be with us as we slowly recover
from the shock of sudden loss, 
enough to begin to imagine what the 
restoration of our home might mean, 
for to build again a thing that we know
might easily be lost, must be an act of faith.
Let our rebuilding be a 
declaration that a day will come when 
all good things are permanent, when 
disaster and decay will have no place, 
when dwellings will stand forever, and 
when no more lives will be disrupted by 
death, tragedy, reversal, or loss.

So by that eternal vision, shape our vision
for what this temporary home might become
in its repair, O Lord, that in that process
of planning and rebuilding we might also
streamline our lives for stewardship, for service,
and for hospitality in the years ahead.

But those are all tasks for tomorrow.
We do not even know yet today the full
measure of what we have lost.

Today is for mourning. So let us grieve together
as those who know the world is broken,
but who yet hold hope of its restoration.

A moment of silence is observed. Then any who wish to speak aloud their specific expressions of grief may do so. 
The leader then continues with these words read by all: 

Comfort us, O Lord,
in the wake of what has overtaken us. 

Shield us, O Lord, from the hurts 
we cannot bear.
Shelter us, O Lord, 
in the fortress of your love.

Shepherd us, O Lord, as we wake each
new morning, faced with the burdens of a
hard pilgrimage we would not have chosen.
But as this is now our path, let us walk it in faith,
and let us walk it bravely, knowing
that you go always before us.

Amen.

 

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Published March 4, 2020
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