I've cried a lot lately. Like many, I'm trying to make sense of the evils so evident in the world. The kidnapping of girls in Nigeria, simply because they sought an education as young women. The persecutions and genocides of minorities in Iraq. The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen, at the hands of police in Ferguson, MO. The suicide of Robin Williams, the deeply talented and troubled actor who inspired so many of us.
These tears are, in part, born out of confusion. I am near my own ordination, so thankful for the goodness in my life, and so anxious because those blessings are kept from others. This dissonance of my blessing to the desperation faced by so many others is incomprehensible, and sometimes, I falter under the accusation of it all.
The tears also come because of the reactions, or lack thereof, to these tragic events. Many of us, myself included, sit idly by in the face of the abduction of young women, the massacring of minority groups, and the death of unarmed civilians at the end of a weapon held by one charged to protect citizens. There are undeniable racial components to this. There are undeniable cultural components to this. There are undeniable proximity components to this. If people do not look like us, live like us, or live near us, apparently we are less likely to care about what happens to them. And that is a tragedy I cannot abide, one laced with the sin that led to the aforementioned atrocities.
The same can be said for Rush Limbaugh's use of Robin Williams' death to sensationalize his own political purposes. Such bastardizing of a person's tragedy is sin and nothing less.
The moment I heard of Robin Williams death, I could not reliving scenes from What Dreams May Come, a movie where Robin Williams plays a character that leaves heaven to rescue his wife from hell, where she suffers in loneliness after her own suicide.
Now, I'm well aware that Robin Williams is not his characters, nor is he simply the moral of his movies. But this ominous coincidence, that Robin plays a person that harrows hell to rescue someone out of their own depression, is a coincidence that will not leave me alone.
Let me be clear. I do not mean to indicate that suicide leads to hell. Far from it. All death is redeemable in the life of Jesus. Yet, even so, I cry, because perhaps the most troubling reality for me is that, as a person prone to depression, these things leave me feeling entirely helpless. I often know not where to turn, other than lament.
And that is where I find strength.
The biblical lamentations offer a myriad of ways to tell God that, quite simply, we are not satisfied with the present evils. To paraphrase one of my professors, this language of Scripture enables us to hold God accountable for the promises God first made to us.
But in the midst of it, there is still pain and confusion, tears and sorrow.
I cry for those taken from their homes because of their gender and desire to learn. I cry for those persecuted simply because they are different. I cry for Michael Brown. I cry for Robin Williams. I cry because I do not know what else to do but lament and hold God accountable for the better future promised to the world in Eden, in Israel, and ultimately in Jesus.
I cry because, what dreams may come, I must believe that Jesus will harrow hell to bring us all into heaven. What dreams may come, we will not end up lonely, but together with those girls, together with the persecuted, together with Michael and Robin and all people in the Kingdom of God. It is hard to believe that in the midst of my lament, but the very ability to lament in this way is born out of the belief that God will not allow depression, or racism, or sexism, or extremism to have the last word. The last word is charism, is gift, the gift of Jesus who laments alongside us and works toward a kingdom where there will be no more tears.
But until then, in the face of these and other atrocities, I will cry my lament, hoping against hope that God will hear the tears fall.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.