O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. – Psalm 22:2 (NRSV)
We still haven’t run out of combinations of words to describe our grief.
I thought about this as I listened to the poet read from her new book, a collection of poems written in the year following her daughter’s death. Fifty people were scattered across a university lecture hall that during school hours would be filled with the drone of keyboards tapping, pens scratching, students fidgeting in their seats.
On this night the hall was cloaked in thick silence save for the poet’s voice. This was not a lecture. There would be no Q & A at the end. The invitation was to listen and bear witness.
I think about the psalmist who recorded their anguished lament so long ago. Their words have been translated across time and languages, but we do not sanitize their pain or censor their rage. We do not add platitudes at the end of the verse. There is no reassuring voice cutting in from the heavens.
There is only the invitation to listen and bear witness.
I am not a poet. My grief sputters out in awkward, defensive, half sentences. In the moments that I withdraw my porcupine quills enough to share my sorrow with someone else, I silently pray they don’t add to it by trying to make it okay or by comparing my wound to theirs.
I pray they hear the invitation to listen and bear witness.
Quiet my desire for quick fixes and easy answers, even when the pain feels unbearable. Amen.
Liz Miller serves as the pastor of Edgewood United Church (UCC) in East Lansing, Michigan.