Lament from “This Here Flesh”

I am most disillusioned with the Christian faith when in the presence of a Christian who refuses to name the traumas of this world. I am suspicious of anyone who can observe colonization, genocide, and decay in the world and not be stirred to lament in some way. For all the goodness of God, my ancestors were still abducted from their homes, raped, and enslaved. I will not be rushed out of my sorrow for it. And we can delight that God made the garden with all those trees of fruit to feast on, but the earth is ailing and eroding from overconsumption and neglect. I shouldn’t need to recite a litany of wounds and injustices and decay in order to justify my sadness. In lament, our task is never to convince someone of the brokenness of this world; it is to convince them of the world’s worth in the first place. True lament is not born from that trite sentiment that the world is bad but rather from a deep conviction that it is worthy of goodness. 

I can only wonder why we have so many depictions of the cross with Christ looking stoic and resolved and so few with him crying out in pain and abandonment. When I read the story, he does not seem composed; he seems devastated. When we reconstruct a Christ whose very face remains unmoved, how are we to trust that he feels or longs for anything at all? A passionless savior cannot be trusted to save. I have never felt closer to God than when he has tears running down his face. I don’t delight in this, but by this, I know that l am seen…. 

And when God bears witness to our suffering, it is not for his consumption or to demonstrate something. My gramma used to wonder what this all was teaching her, a rhetoric she absorbed from the church. But it seems cruel to believe that God would require grief to make a truth known. I refuse to believe we need to dissect our pain in search of purpose. Sometimes shit is just shit. It’s okay to say so. 

I think when God bears witness to our lament, we discover that we are not calling out to a teacher but inviting God as a nurturer—a mother who hears her child crying in the night. She wakes, rises, and comes to the place where we lie. She rushes her holy warmth against our flesh and says, I’m here.

Excerpted from This Here Flesh by Cole Arthur Riley. Copyright © 2022 by Cole Arthur Riley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

This Here Flesh:

Black Liturgies:

October 10, 2023 by Cole Arthur Riley
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