The book of Lamentations is a series of lament prayers that are counter-cultural for many of us. The one praying is a Jewish survivor from the Babylonian conquest. He lives in the rubble of Jerusalem, amid the slaughter of livestock and the destruction of fields. To fully appreciate what this homeless poet prays to God, read other parts of the book. Those of us who have known wealth, stability, and a variety of other advantages may find it difficult to connect with this poet.
Martin Luther King, Jr., once encouraged an older woman who had been walking long distances during the Montgomery Bus Boycott to begin riding the bus again to preserve her health. She responded, “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.” People who
have not known centuries of oppression have difficulty relating to this type of perspective and the imagination that we find embedded in African-American spirituals and in Black church traditions. African-American Christians have much to teach about imagining hope in the midst of despair, of seeing liberation while still suffering oppression.
Esther de Waal in The Celtic Way of Prayer speaks of how the threat that Celtic peoples lived under for centuries developed their ability to resist oppression and to cultivate hope. The Celts lived into the promise of the morning light: “Light in darkness, hope in despair, life in death, is their constant theme…. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Unless we listen to others from different cultural backgrounds, we stay trapped in a narrow band that keeps us from fully seeing God’s world and understanding the faith story God wants to tell us.
What cultural blinders keep you from seeing another’s perspective? What could you do to remove them?
Lord, forgive me for believing my experience is everyone’s. Give me courage to listen to someone today who experiences the world differently. Amen.