Lament and the Body

Fuster Cluck, post #1

We were the sensitive kids. We were constantly being told, “be quiet”, “quit crying”, “it’s not a big deal”, “look on the bright side”, “count your blessings”, or “just get over it”. These messages were reinforced in our churches as well. We were told that Christ has won the victory and we should have joy, peace, and happiness. We should rejoice and find the joy of our salvation! We should praise Him even when things are bad. As our group discussed our past experiences in our own families of origin and in our churches, we began to see a common thread in that what we were taught only made us feel more isolated and confused. Our bodies and our minds were speaking a different truth and we were conflicted.

This happy-go-lucky way of being seems counterintuitive to our true nature as human beings living in a broken world where suffering and pain are unavoidable. What if praising Him when things are bad looks like anger, sadness, or disappointment? What if bearing our true hearts before Him in honesty is what He desires over our half-hearted smiles while we sing or proclaim words that are not congruent with our inner experience? What does lament look like? How do we do learn this way of communing with God that we’ve seen very little of in our lives?

These questions are what led us to choose to read the book, Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms by Glenn Pemberton. In this book, Pemberton asserts that “believers are aching for words to express the realities of their lives, to speak the truth to God instead of putting on a charade of repetitive and empty praise cliches that ignore or deny the relentless storms” (p. 25). The bible, in the Psalms, gives us a great example of how lament was a huge part of communion with God. David, who was “the man after God’s own heart”, actively brings every emotion to God, whether it is joy or anger, thankfulness or pain.

As our group began to share our stories, we inevitably wound up in the conversation of how our bodies have been impacted. Our bodies tell the story of trauma, abuse, and shame. This means that as we have denied ourselves the right to lament and confess our sorrows, we have violated our own bodies, keeping them in bondage. We are created with bodies that long to tell our stories and to grieve. Our conversation has turned to how we can listen to our bodies and pay attention to our own humanity as we strive for health and vitality.

We have chosen to read different books individually for our trauma study with a focus on the body. Each of us carries a unique story and have picked the topic that most interests us within our our learning of how lament impacts our bodily experience. Sex, God and the Conservative Church by Tina Schermer Sellers was chosen for the purpose of processing the sexual repression and shame that has been taught in the christian culture and in our families. There is lament and grief that is experienced when we realize we have been cut off from our sexual selves. The books, The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, Trauma and the Body by Pat Ogden, Kekuni Minton, and Clare Pain, and The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild will focus on how the body carries trauma. We are interested in knowing more about how lament can play a role in trauma recovery and healing. Our final book is Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper. This book was selected in order to look further into how to care specifically for our bodies and the harm it has endured through a closer look at Yoga.

The greatest thing we hope to glean from this in-depth look at lament and the body is to learn more about how we can incorporate this spiritual practice into our lives and use it to bring healing and a richer life experience.

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Chelle Stearns

Chelle Stearns

Associate Professor of Theology at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology