Sunday, October 25, 2015

How to Cry

Photo By: Lies Thru a Lens - on Flicker
The music of Eminem intrigues me.  He is a man of broken hopes and dreams with a flood of sorrow and depression.  He is known in the evangelical circles for his crass lyrics and spoiled language.  And, for the reason of his spoiled language I don’t often recommend his music.  But, in his amazing talent he is doing something important in his songs.  We do not often realize what he is doing because we don’t understand the poetry of lament.  Eminem is singing out of a place of incredible pain.  He sings for many Americans as he cries out his lament.  In his day he was the voice of lament in our culture.

As you read the following excerpt from Marshall Mathers' song there are two things I want you to pay attention first for the pain he has encountered.  Second is his despair.

"Now I would never dis my own mama just to get recognition. Take a second to listen for you think this record is dissin,' / But put yourself in my position. Just try to envision witnessin' your Mama poppin' prescription pills in the kitchen, / complaining that someone's always goin' throuh her purse and stuff's missin.' Going through public housing systems, victim of Munchausen's syndrome. My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn't 'til I grew up, now I blew up. It makes you sick to ya stomach, / doesn't it? Wasn't it the reason you made that CD for me, Ma? So you could try to justify the way you treated me, Ma? / But guess what, yer gettin' older now and it's cold when your lonely. An' Nathan's getting' up so quick, he's gonna know that your phoney. / And Hailie's getting' so big now, you should see her, she's beautiful. But you'll never see her, she won't even be at your funeral. / See what hurts me the most is you won't admit you was wrong, do ya song. Keep tellin' yourself that you was a mom. / But how dare you try to take what you didn't help me to get. I hope you burn for this. / Remember when Ronnie died and you said you wished it was me? Well, guess what, I am dead. Dead to you as can be.

"I'm sorry, Mama. I never meant to hurt you. I never meant to make you cry, but tonight I'm cleanin' out my closet."

Eminem was deeply scarred by his childhood.  He had a tough time growing up.  His family treated him with contempt, he treated his family with contempt. Now he is older successful (by the worlds eyes) and has a child of his own he is still haunted by the ghosts of his past. 

Did you see in that song how he mourned for his family?  He mourned bitterly.  He cried out in lament.  Did you noticed that in this song is he has no hope?  His cry is into an open grave of his own trial.  He is his own hope.  And for that he utterly despairs he utterly mourns. 

You see, his lament is appropriate to his situation.  Unfortunately, without the proper hope, he is consumed by his pain.  Let us look at another example of a lament from the musical artist Michael Card.  Notice there are similarities in their pains but their attitudes are different. 

Here is a child longing for his father’s love; a child shutout from his father’s life.  His pain, real pain, is part of who he is.  The healing he received, which comes from acknowledging his pain, is profound.  Yet in his pain and loss listen to his hope,

“Our wounds are part of who we are, and there is nothing left to chance, and pain’s the pen that writes the songs, and they call us forth to dance.” – Michael Card

Where Eminem sees only destruction and devastation, Michael card sees redemption.  Why is that?  Michel Card expressed a very profound truth in a lecture on the worship of lament he said, “The point is not good psychology, it is about worshiping God well. … [And] worship always begins in the wilderness.” 

The trials that plague Michael Card draw him into a deeper and more profound worship of the one real God.  The trials that plague Eminem draw him worship as well, but worship of himself.  I mourn for him, this talented man is brought to destruction because of his pain.  I would love to see Eminem on his knees before God so that he could truly express his lament in holy worship of our Lord. 

What about this statement, “True worship begins in the wilderness.”  The author of the hymn It is Well With My Soul penned one of the most profound hymns of worship while floating over the watery grave of his children.  Do you think his words would move us in the same way without the pain of the wilderness? 

Psalm 42 teaches us something important.  When we read psalm 42 we will learn how to lament, how to worship God in the midst of our pain.  We are not to sing these words so that our trial will be lifted; but so that we will experience the presence of God in the midst of them. 

Read: Psalm 42

I want you to see the desert stretching limitless upon the horizon.  As the land rises and falls you see hot ponds pocking the horizon, but you know they are only lies. Illusions tempting the soul to lust.  Your journey has taken you to the center of hopelessness.  Your mouth is dry.  As your tongue touches the roof of your mouth it sticks. You cry, but are too dry to produce tears. 

You are in the wilderness.  You long for water as the dear longs for water. You long for water as a dry and weary traveler.  Hold this image in your mind.  The image of thirst and water are controlling themes through out this poem. 

What is the desert this song writer finds himself in?  It is a spiritual desert.  He longs dearly for the presence of God.  “My soul thirsts for God the living God; when shall I appear before God?”  Only his tears attempt to quench his thirst.  His journey has found him in the wilderness.  His journey has found him at the place of despair. 

In a lecture on lament, Michael Card tells a story of his friend in the hospital.  His friend had just become a quadriplegic.  Laying in the hospital bed he begins to cry out to God with this lament, “Why oh Lord why did you allow this to happen to ME!”  According to Card, as his friend cried out, looking at the ceiling, he felt a presence enter the room.  “I need water.” He cried out to the nurse.  “I need water.” 

He bean to realize that this was not the presence of a nurse but the presence of Christ. In the depths of his wilderness he began to worship.  Time passed and the presence of Christ turned to leave.  The cry of his friend was no longer, “why” but, “You do not have to heal me JUST DON’T LEAVE me!”  

This is the thirst of the wilderness, the thirst for Jesus Christ, the thirst for our Lord.  Until we are in the place of the wilderness we do not truly understand the sweetness of water.  Jesus tells us in John 4:14 tells us, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  In the wilderness we are drawn into worship because we begin to value the real water for our soul.

Why does this promise ring true?   Because in the midst of his mourning he has a constant refrain.  There is a constant chores line an internal cry an internal call. 

“Why are you down cast oh my soul?
Why are you disquiet with in me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him,
For the help of his presence.”

The psalmist, aware of his trial, speaks to himself.  “Oh my soul, why do you war within me? Why are you in turmoil my soul?”  Circumstances seem to answer that question. The war is both external and internal.  The pain is real and is affecting him to the deepest core of who he is. “Why are you disquiet within me?” 

Are you honest with your circumstances are you honest with your pain?  When I entered college I had many friends who were experiencing the destruction of their family, broken homes, broken lives, and broken limbs.  I compared myself to others and refused to acknowledge my own pain.

I could not do what this psalmist did and it destroyed me.  This psalm writer recognized his pain both from without and from with in.  He said, “I am dying and thirsty my family is trying to kill me and it is cutting me to the quick.” 

I refused to admit my pain.  I refused to admit the trials I was entering; both vicariously through my friends, and in the uncertainty my own life.  I began to draw away from God.  I was still obedient but I lost the ability to enter into true worship of God.  “My pain is not real,” I thought. 

When we deny our pain we rob God of the glory for things he is doing in our life.  When we deny our pain we lose the ability to hear from God.  When we deny our pain we destroy our soul.  We lose the ability to feel our emotions.  We lose the ability to worship God in spirit and in truth. 

The psalmist recognized his pain.  He recognized his external circumstances, but he also recognized his internal pain.  “Oh why are you in turmoil my soul?”  Even though we remember the presence of God, our pain will not always dissipate, our circumstances will not necessarily change.  However, what we do gain is hope.  “[I will] hope in God for I will still praise him for the help of his presence.” 

It is said that a lab mouse will swim for hours in a tank of water if there is a chance that it could get onto a platform, dry ground.  But you take that same lab mouse and stick it in a tank without any way for freedom and it will drowned quickly.  Recognizing our pain, and Remembering God’s provision give us hope in the midst of many trials. 

The horror of our sin stained world is that too often we find ourselves in circumstances where we have two unbearable options; where we find ourselves between the bolder and the canyon floor.  There is no easy way out, no 30 minute sitcom solution, the answer to our prayer is pain, is trial, is suffering. 

This is why we must seek first the presence of God.  Because if we seek for the presence of God first he will be faithful to give the best to us.  In the midst of trial he will give us His presence in abundance.  This is no promise that our pain will be removed it is only a promise that the One we were created for, the one we were created to love, long for, and worship will be with us.  We can seek him from the cliffs of exile, from the desert of conflict.  We will seek him and he will find us.

Photo from: Randy OHC on FlickerNot until we understand and cry out in our lament will we be able to truly worship God.  Once we being to understand what bad is, we can begin to grasp how good God is.  Who are we to say that suffering is not for us?  God did not exempt himself from suffering the pain of this world.  He experienced the greatest suffering for us. 

Michael Card said, “If we do not take lament seriously we cannot take the cross seriously. He uses suffering to save the world” We must learn the art of worship through the beauty of the lament.  Cry to God in the hard times and he will draw you into himself.  He will draw you closer to himself because he experience the greatest suffering on the cross.  Betrayed by his own friend, bruised by the people created in his hands, crushed for the iniquity of those he loves. 

Who are we to flee from pain, to flee from trial when the creator himself embraced suffering on our behalf?  If we do not embrace lamentation, if we do not learn how to cry out to God underneath our burdens, then we will never understand the true power and nature of the cross. Do not seek for God to just take away the hard times but seek God in the hard times with your lament.  This is how we learn to properly cry. 

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