I read an article the other day about faith beaten black and blue; more specifically, "how to give voice" to the bruising. Many would question the necessity of the dialogue, after all don't we prefer to put our best foot forward? When a gray-blue ache surfaces in our faith-lives, blemishing our post-conversion glow, we tend to keep it under long sleeves, pulled low over our knuckles. Hidden.Psalm 88
For my soul is full of troubles. . . You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
Any one who keeps a journal has benefited from the secret, un-inhibited translation of honest pain, confusion and shame from heart to page. Novelists have their own covert vehicle to communicate the darker bits of their lives: characters and plot. Song-writers embed truths inside their hazy and befuddling lyrics.These act as a legitimate, albeit opaque, methods for the telling of pain. A reader can only guess.
These days there is a thing called blogging, and people called bloggers. And the whole lot of us are a mite confused about where to draw our lines. On one hand, it is as complicated as you make it. Share a few pictures. Skim along the surface of life, and no one asks too many questions. This works quite nicely for me most of the time. (Big, happy pictures = small problems, right?) On the other hand, some of us sort our mess out best through writing. And a decision has to be made. Tidy up the inner-mess quietly or share the process, even if there are still dust balls tumble-weeding around under the bed, and the creases in the bed just won't lie flat. Pain-sharing: A beautifully-mucky conundrum.
The article refers to this sharing of the dark as "lament." That suits. Lament is classically OT. The prophets did it. David did it. His boy, Solomon did it. Lament is a type of moan that burbles up out of the pit of each of us and never fully tapers off. For that reason, so many of us just don't venture there-- creatures of catharsis, that we are. I mean, who really felt soul-satisfied when Anna Karenina jumped in front of the train? (Not the way to end a novel.) And who presses stop after Gandalf gets dragged down with the beast and calls it a day? Who wishes that messed-up cat would sustain it's bone-chilling baby-yowl all through the night? We aren't built to linger contently with the unfinished. The incomplete. The void of somewhere-before-the-happy-ending. Especially when the somewhere-void is a place that hurts.
But isn't that exactly where we finds ourselves 98% of the time? In the waiting place? Usually sharing space with confusion, longing and varying degrees of insecurity? I'll tell you, that is exactly where I live. There is nothing comfortably conclusive about a life of five children, myriads of relationships and the ebb and flow of faith and obedience. Except for the ending, that is. I know how it ends. For me. And I have hope lodged-deep in me for the ending of those I love. But between the waiting places and the end is a lot of heavy, un-defined, fray-edged stuff that could use a bit of communing.
Christians have been perpetuating a well-intentioned pain-sharing mechanism called 'testimony.' But the parameters are somewhat hard-lined, the "plot" predictable: Beginning (good or bad), Build-up (usually bad. Often, very bad indeed), Climax (conversion), Falling-action (a series up ups and down, trending towards good,) & Denouement (good, always good or you'll never be asked to speak at the youth conference ever again.) The same human psychology is at play here as in our book-reading/movie-watching habits. Make the thing work out in the end. Don't leave it all hanging over the abyss.
I just think that there is a place for this abyss-perching dialogue. It's called "mourning with those who mourn." And sharing the ash heap. And saying; "I just don't know." This is life. Not saying I like it. (I am very partial to princesses finding their princes and Hobbits destroying rings, etc.) But it is life, non-the less. We don't get to know how the unfolding goes. And the not knowing usually makes a mess of us. So let's talk about it, write about it and admit that it all sounds very familiar.