I sat in the front row of a mostly empty church, hands clasped, mouth covered with a mask. Appropriately spaced throughout the sanctuary were a hand full of pastors and ministry leaders in our city, gathered together for a prayer vigil on account of the hard realities currently facing our nation. Hard realities — that phrase doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is bubbling and surfacing right now. It’s not that racism didn’t exist before this year. It’s not that black and brown bodies have never been oppressed, controlled, or killed before. But it’s the cumulative effect of it all. So much loss and pain has happened in such a short period of time, and the memory of all the lives who have been cut short in the past are all too near.
That evening, I stepped into that space, feeling tired and emotionally fatigued. It’s hard to even explain the roller coaster of emotions that a person of color experiences in witnessing and processing so much death and violence against the Black community.
Anger. Rage. Fear. Emptiness. Pain. Exhaustion.
But tonight was exactly where I needed to be. With my eyes closed and my hands open wide, I received the first prayer of the evening:
God, we lament for what’s happening in our country.
We lament the loss of life You say is valuable, that You say is important, and that was created in your image.
We cry tonight. We lament tonight. We mourn.
One after another, men and women, black, brown, and white, all stood up and lamented the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Mike Ramos, and so many more. Every single one cried out to God and let the pent-up pain of too many weeks spill out into words before our Father.
I never knew how much I needed to mourn communally until that night. Because we all came together that night to acknowledge, not just the brokenness in our society, but also in ourselves. Lament and confession go hand in hand, and oh, did we all have much to confess. The white Christians present confessed their own sins of racism, of ignorance, and turning a blind eye to the pains of communities of color in the past. Christians of color, including myself, confessed times when we’ve stayed silent and when we’ve chosen not to stand in solidarity for fellow Black and brown men and women.
That night of prayer was the first step toward solidarity with our Black and brown communities who are hurting right now. More than that, it was an act of public witness where we created space to go before God, lift our voices up, hear from His Word, and consider how our own sins and failures have led to our current predicament right now. We prayed together for God to orient our hearts, minds, and bodies toward love and justice.
Lament is a biblical response to the reality of suffering, and it’s what we need right now.
Each of need to take all that we’re feeling and experiencing, and everything happening in our country right now and lay them before our God in heaven. We must pray as the Psalmist does in Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes up to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” We’ve all seen or experienced personally the racial tension in our country, and the our starting point for change, for healing, and solidarity moving forward has to begin with lament and confession to God.
So many people are asking me right now what they should be doing. And I get it. We want to do something. There’s a lot of people who are growing in their racial consciousness for the very first time. This topic is completely new to so many and people want to start reading all the books and having all the conversations on race and justice. And those are good things to do in time. But before we act, we need to first lament. Lament the deaths of image bearers. Lament a long, dark history in which Black and brown bodies haven’t been treated as equal to white bodies. Lament our own ignorance to this history — perhaps even our own complicity.
Our aim for this current reality in our country shouldn’t be to just have a conversation on race. Instead, we should lead with lament. Pray, lament, and confess on repeat. That’s what I’ve challenged myself to do during these gut-wrenching days. Every day, a new video, a new threat, a new assault. Lamenting before God is the only way I know to channel my rage. More than that, prayer and lament form the foundation for my activism. Because it’s only if we’re doing these things on repeat that we can humbly begin to have those conversations about race, reparations, and reform.
Friend, will you lament with me today?Leave a Comment
Michelle, thank you for your powerful testimony and your words of wisdom.
Michelle Reyes says
Thanks for reading, Sharon, and for standing in solidarity!
Wow! Yes, I lament with you, and I lament with and for all those in pain and suffering losses. I lament for those of us seeking understanding and faith in ‘thy will be done.’ Thank you for this powerful lament and show of grace
Michelle Reyes says
Amen! Thank you, sister!
Rita Peté says
Thank you for testimony & courage to stand up and fight on the frontline as an intercessor!!
I will continue to pray, lament, confess & repeat!! I’ve experienced the pain of racism!! I trust God for manifestation of His Word! 2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall ahumble themselves, and bpray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”.
Michelle Reyes says
What a good word, Rita! Thank you for joining with me in this call for communal lament. I love 1 Chronicles 7:14 and it’s word for us to humble ourselves. We cannot begin to lament unless our hearts have a posture of humility. Such a good reminder.
Tamara Lammers says
Lamenting with you… Lord hear our cries and prayers. Forgive us, heal us, renew us, restore us, draw us back to you filling us with your wisdom, love and grace and guiding us on the path we should go. Amen
A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.
Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.
Michelle Reyes says
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Yes, confess, repent, lament, pray….and then DO something. Have a courageous conversation with your friends of color – you’ll be surprised at what you discover. If you don’t have friends of color, perhaps therin lies the problem? Support a ministry that champions those of color and pours out love that points them to Jesus. Here’s just one suggestion: http://redeemerinc.org Combat hate and divide by demonstrating love and solidarity. Actions ultimately speak louder than words. Let’s not just be hearers of the Word, but doers…our world needs us right now.
Mary Carver says
Hey there, Bev. As always, I’m happy to see you here! I wondered if you might have overlooked that Michelle is a woman of color herself. I know she has many friends and family who are people of color. But for those of us who are white, yes, taking a look at the diversity (or lack thereof) in our community is indeed a needed step right now. Thank you for your words of encouragement and for being part of this (in)courage community!
Linda S says
I confess my lack of understanding previously, lament my ignorance, and ask for knowledge and wisdom going forward. But I also am confused about the far higher rate of deaths due to black on black killings. These people are definitely lost & need our prayers for themselves to repent and be saved. And the high rate of abortion among the black community – how do we approach that? In all of this we never hear any mention of white people, who are poor or elderly or disadvantaged people, too, who are violently killed because they are vulnerable. Shouldn’t we lift ALL people up? I mean no disrespect or dismissal of your premise, which is valid, but I am seeing a complete ignoring of a whole segment of the population. Please, help me understand.
Hi, I’m a pasty-white fallen human being who is also lamenting and repenting and trying to learn. If you did not actually want any answers to your questions, then never mind; I have found that a high percentage of people who ask about these specific things don’t actually want to engage with it – just want to use those questions to dismiss the issue. But your first sentence gave me hope, so I’m going to try to answer (but incourage mods, if someone more competent replies, please feel free to delete this!).
In response to your questions about abortion and homicide: If we improve economic and family situations within a community by removing injustice within the school system, the police, and the criminal justice system, abortion is statistically almost certain to drop (access to birth control is also statistically likely to reduce abortions; reducing unwanted pregnancies and making it more financially feasible to give birth to children both reduce abortion rates, which isn’t very surprising). If we change our systems such that people are not afraid of calling the police – if they know that justice will be done – then violence within communities will be reduced. Obviously, these won’t fix *everything* – everyone of every race is a sinful, fallen human being – but many of these problems are not unrelated – drug use in economically-crumpled, high-unemployment white communities is wildly higher than in communities that are economically functional – it’s not that “those people” are worse, but if their available options were different, many of their individual and community choices would also be different.
In response to your second question, I would inquire: How do you respond to, say, someone else doing a marathon to raise funds for research to fight breast cancer? There are other cancers that kill people! Heart disease kills more women per year! There are other, arguably more brutal diseases! The answer, usually: this issue is what *this* effort is focusing on, because it has some different roots than other things (so we can’t just tackle “all diseases” while still making as much progress on any one thing), and because it *is* killing and harming a ton of people, and because we *should* work against it. Should we also work against other injustice? Yes! But *this* movement, at *this* time, is focusing on *this* problem with *these* roots. I’d note that people also mostly aren’t bringing up the *over 2x* maternal mortality rate faced by Black women vs. white women; that’s an issue of racism within the medical system, not within the police/criminal justice system, and the police/criminal justice system is the primary focus at this time (for some really good reasons). Although hey, if on the way we could somehow kill off all racism, that’d be *great*! Or if we could reform all the systems that are supposed to serve the American public such that *no one* is treated badly due to being perceived as less valuable for any reason [poor, elderly, race, mental illness, etc.], that’d be *great* (I’d note that some of these other populations would be positively affected if measures are taken to reduce excessive use of force by police). If research funded by a marathon for breast cancer turns out to be a miracle cure for all other cancers, then we’ll be dancing in the streets! But for now, this particular marathon is trying to make progress towards this goal, prompted by these specific motivations, and thus standing on the sidelines and yelling at the runners “but what about colon cancer? and heart disease kills more American women per year than breast cancer does!” doesn’t really help much with… anything.
(but, again: not an expert, just trying to do my best, and apologies for errors or misstatements)
Very well said
Becky Keife says
Your comment points out the reality that there is SO much brokenness in our fallen world. You’re absolutely right that there are so many individuals and groups of people who are marginalized and overlooked, and others who are stuck in cycles of sin and destructive behavior. Michelle’s post shines a much-needed spotlight on one particular area of collective sin and brokenness our nation is facing in terms of systemic racism. (As a writer, I know that no single blog post can address ALL the important issues at once.) But what I think we can all take from today’s devotion is to let God soften our hearts through a response of confession and lament. God’s heart breaks over loss of all life–whether by abortion or violence of any kind. This isn’t about ignoring any segment of the population but rather pressing into lament for a certain kind of injustice that has long been overlooked. I hope that helps. Thanks so much for being here, entering the conversation, and sharing your honest questions.
(in)courage community manager
Michele Morin says
It’s true that here in Northern America we need a language of lament to be provided for us, because, for the most part, we have forgotten how.
Hidden sorrow never finds words.
Michelle Reyes says
Yes, indeed! And we need to lament communally. Our American individualism has blinded us from participating in this practice as the whole body of Christ. That’s something we can all begin practicing together.
Kristen Strong says
“Our American individualism has blinded us from participating in this practice…” Oh wow, if that ain’t the truth. Thank you for telling it like it is, Michelle!
Beth Williams says
The problem is we seem to have forgotten our entire past. Young people aren’t taught the entirety of history in school. Not many people really dig deep into our nation’s history to get the rest of the story. For true healing to happen within our nation we ALL need to lament our prejudices. Confess to God where you’ve wronged others or harbored bias towards a group of people. This goes way back to Biblical times. Even the Jews & Jewish leaders, in particular, had bigotry against other peoples-especially the Samaritans. Jesus came to show us a different way. Stop looking at the outside of a person-skin color, etc. Look at the heart of the person. Get to know that person. Don’t assume all people of a race are the same. That isn’t true. Let’s do what Jesus would do lament, confess to God & repeat over & over. Asking God to heal our hearts & souls. Then go out & shower this nations with His love.
Michelle Reyes says
I agree, Beth. We need to understand our history better. And we need to learn more than just what we read in history textbooks in school growing up. The more we know and understand, the better equipped we are to lament.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Yes we all need to pray as I believe we are all God Children. We need to do what God wants us too do remember that he loves us all. God see beyond the skin color. So we especially if saved must do the same. Love all people no matter what skin color or religion they are. Love them all no matter who they are no matter what wrong they have done. We are not to Judge them for doing wrong. Ours is not to Judge but Pray for them. Look at Jesus he went to Cross for our sins. If Jesus want before we got saved. He could say no I not going to forgive you for your sins and let you be a follower of mind. No he Jesus is glad to have you as follower of his when you ask him into your heart. So Jesus wouldn’t want you Judging any one. Just love them and pray for them. There is hurting Church out there that need us Followers to show us the Love of Jesus to them and be the Love of Jesus to them. No matter what skin color they are. Or race the are. If in Hospital you don’t care what color if not well the Doctor or Nurse is as well as they make you well. So why when you are not in Hospital should it make any difference. You should do what Jesus does look at the heart. Man that is not saved does not do that. God looks at the heart. Let do what God would want us to do look at the heart of the person not their skin color. If we need confess we have not not done this do as today reading title says Pray Lament and Confess to God our wrong in this way. I could have been saying things about people with different skin color to me but I don’t as I always loved them as I see them no different than me only color. But I have heard people comments and it not nice. It has made me go into prayer all the more. As I cousin she has sallow skin. Now white not brown in-between. It has never brothered me at all. I always expected her. I done that even before I was saved with all people of all walks shaped religion and skin color. As I said Dawn they are doing me any harm. If they are nice to me if say hello why don’t I just say hey back and be nice back. That what I would have all done. My family would have told me off even before I was saved and even now I am saved for being to kind. They say Dawn you don’t even know that person and they don’t know you. But they not take that out of me. One time I said Hello to Muslim family I said Hello your kids are beautiful. Which was true. That women gave me the biggest smile said you said hello to me. I said yes because I was lead to. I made her day. She said no even stops to say Hello you made my dsy. She had her beautiful kids with her that day. See I made her day. My Husband looked at me. I said I made her too my Husband. I new it was of God I did it. See I made a difference to that women many just walk passed say why don’t they stay in their own country. They are still loved by God. They that say things like that need to repent get saved Pray and Lament and Confess for their wrong. Would they like if that was them and that said about them. No they would not. God see what they do. Excellent word today. Love it. Love you all incourage. Keeping you all in Prayer Xxx
Michelle Reyes says
Thanks for your thoughts. I’m so encouraged by your example to extend a hand of friendship to anyone, no matter their skin color or ethnicity. Words of kindness go a long way. However, I do think we need to love people *with* their skin color. Jesus came to earth as a brown-skinned man. His Jewish identity informed the way he lived, celebrated, partied at weddings, mourned and more. We don’t need to make someone’s skin color hyper-visible, but ignoring it can also be hurtful too. It’s a hard balance, but one that I think we can all do well with practice and God’s grace!
Robin Dance says
Michelle, I’m a life-long church goer, and I don’t think I’ve ever attended a church that has called for a collective lament (until now, our current church). It has never occurred to me that there would be value in communal lament, so thank you for stirring new ideas. Even among friends, few in my real life consider how that response is of value in engaging the pain and suffering around us. Perhaps that is because, in my sphere, not many are directly affected; it’s more abstract. This is why I’m so thankful you’re writing about it! (and others)
On a different note, I’ve written about the “colorblindness” mistake in my upcoming (in)post :). Interesting to see it spoken about in so many comment threads lately….
Love and thanks to you!
Becky Keife says
Lamenting with you, Michelle. And you’re so right. Lament and confession is not a one and done kind of thing. It’s a repeat, repeat, repeat process of giving God access to all parts of our hearts and experiences and asking Him to do a redemptive work. He is able! Here with you.
Dorina Lazo Gilmore says
Michelle, thank you for leading all of us with these powerful words & reminding us that we must always begin on our knees in prayer, grief and lament. I have found in that space that God has taught me so much about compassion. I have also been blessed by people who have come alongside me in my own grief and lament. It’s truly an expression of Immanuel, God with us. When we spend that time, then He can lead us to to strategic action.
Kristen Strong says
Michelle, thank you for this challenge and charge to “Pray, lament, and confess.” Thank you for reminding me that lament isn’t something that should be pushed or rushed through. (A truth I’ve struggled with for decades, sadly.) When I mull over this trio of words, it sounds like a “starting point waltz”—something that repeats over and over as it, in your wise words, forms the foundation of our activism. It seems I’m better able to do this repeatedly when I keep myself in a posture of listening to and learning from my sisters and brothers of color. Thank you, Michelle, for being a patient and valuable voice in all stages of activism—my family and I are watching and learning from you.
Lucretia Berry says
Thank you for this invitation to lament. I think that culturally, lamenting is a lost art in our larger American culture. I think that we’ve been graced with this time to rediscover and recover the power of lamenting. In the lamenting, we begin to ask the question ‘HOW?’ — How did this happen? How did we get here? And when we ask such questions, we inadvertently make room to receive the answer that our faithful God sends us. Before restoration, there is lament.
Simply reading about your corporate lament activated healing within me. Thank you.
Shalom to you. May God continue to protect His expression through you.
Bomi - JollyNotes.com says
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Michelle. This is much needed and appreciated, Thank you so much for sharing.
Hugs, Much love and Blessings to you and everyone at your church as well!
And Thank you so very much to the people at (in) courage. Thank you for your courage, your kindness, your patience, your love, your steadfastness and your obvious desire to do the right thing as you continue to look to God for guidance. Thank you for crying with us. Thank you for allowing God to use you to speak to us all and encourage us all again and again. Thank you for using your voices for good. Thank you for not being silent – that would have been the easy thing to do. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you. May God continue to bless, guide and encourage us all. May God lead you all aright every day and you continue to seek His face. Thank you and God bless. ~ Bomi
This is a late response, but I have finally figured out what it was that sat wrong with me when I first read this post. It was this statement: “The white Christians present confessed their own sins of racism, *of ignorance*…” (emphasis mine). The Bible talks about sins committed IN ignorance and THROUGH ignorance, but there is no sin OF ignorance. Making additions to the law that God has handed down is exactly what Jesus pronounced woe upon the religious leaders for doing in Matthew 23. So while I agree fully with the call to lament, it will only be honored by and honoring to God when we do it in accordance with His Word. The only legitimate repentance is when we acknowledge and repent of sin as HE has defined it.