I awoke suddenly very early this morning feeling very sad. I had been dreaming about putting containers of food in a freezer but I have no idea about what connection there was between the dream and my sadness. Deciding that trying to go back to sleep would be futile, I parked myself on the sofa in the living room, played solitaire on my phone, which didn't make me any happier, and thought about sadness - mine, that of people I love, the world's sadness.
For a few minutes I entertained useless thoughts about how I have no real reasons to be sad. After all I am more prosperous than most other people in the world, so why should I be sad? But strong emotions aren't logical and there is nothing to be gained by telling myself that I have no right to be sad. Emotions simply are.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being with Malcolm Boyd, whose Are You Running With Me, Jesus? played a significant role in the journey that led to my being ordained. Malcolm is still very insistent that prayer is one of the most important parts of the work that we do as people committed to justice. Real prayer, honest prayer is what is needed, and these days honest prayer will often be a lament.
Someone said recently that we need to reclaim our capacity to lament. The people of ancient Israel understood the importance of lament, at least that is what I see when I pray with the psalms, and Jesus, we are told, lamented when he looked at Jerusalem. The world is a sad place and denying it, saying that God is in heaven and all is right with the world, only makes it sadder.
In 1976 the Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall published Lighten Our Darkness: Toward an Indigenous Theology of the Cross. Hall began the Preface of the book with these words:
The subject of this book is the failure of a people and the courage that can come to those who contemplate this failure in the perspective of the cross. The people are the North Americans.
Hall is right that it takes courage to face our failure and that we can find courage as we see that failure in the light of the cross. We have adopted in both his country and mine an almost official optimism that denies the presence of darkness, that refuses to lament. Hall took as his title a phrase from one the collects for Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. How can we pray that collect with any integrity if we refuse to admit that "our darkness" is real? How can we move to honest confession of our failure when what we too often hear from our elected officials is the far less than honest "Mistakes were made"?
Perhaps my early morning sadness was a gift, a nudge from God who wants me to be honest in my prayer, who wants me to lament.