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Justice Needs Less Superheroes and More Cry Babies

This story contains mature content.  

I listen to one of my friends give her testimony to a group of teenagers. Her story is one of living on the Edmonton streets as one continually traumatized and sexually exploited – a life barely sustained by narcotics.  The youth’s eyes are locked on her and her every word. She tells of her uncle who kidnapped her, strapped her to a bed, stuck a needle of heroin in her arm and sexually assaulted her. She was five years old. Even when she was sleeping in the same bed as her mother, men would come into the bed and molest her. While this was happening, her mom would pretend to sleep. Her mom was trained to do this while a student in residential schools. The children who pretended to sleep stillness would be invisible to the predatory march of the priest’s midnight visits. 

This story is far removed from the teenagers’ lives. 

Her story is powerful, but also a bit dangerous. The danger is that this story is far removed from the teenagers’ lives and, while it overwhelms them like a heavy wave in the moment, it will soon disappear into legend like a pair of wet jeans eventually dries off. Memories of her will spark admiration and longing, but it will always be disconnected from ‘normal’ middle-class life. I believe this disconnection is more common in our time because we have lost the ancient art of lament. 

When I encounter stories like my friend’s, I usually read Psalm 10. These verses pop out to me as I reflect on my friend’s testimony. 

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,

He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.

His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.

Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.

These words may sound harsh in our polite society and spirituality. Though it may not sound very “Christian”, these words are given to us for a purpose. Two purposes come to mind for me: laments help us understand both other people’s poverty and our own poverty. 

I feel her pain and I pray out her anger and desperation.

If I read Psalm 10 in my own personal devotions it makes little sense to me, but if I read it with my friend’s testimony in the background, it comes alive. I feel her pain and I pray out her anger and desperation. When you lament you begin to actually suffer with the traumatized. Your love for them grows and their story forever remains written on your heart. 

Secondly, laments help us to understand our own poverty. Laments are honest cries to God which lead to trust in God. I am sure you have felt this kind of anger and hate found in this Psalm towards someone. How did you handle it? The western Christian tends to suppress it. I used to think faith was pushing my emotions down and forcing myself to love others. On the contrary, faith is not suppressing your emotions but trusting God enough to show him how you really feel. Only he can heal us and give us the strength to truly forgive; truly love. When we try and press down our emotions, we are actually using our own strength and ability to deal with what only God can. 

Our tendency is to try and be our own superheroes and saviours.

Lamenting is confessing that you are weak and utterly poor. The only hope of life and deliverance is God. Our tendency is to try and be our own superheroes and saviours, rather than trusting God our Saviour. In this way, we tend to look down on others who are not all-well-put together like ourselves and attribute their suffering to a lack of faith. If we do not lament, we blind our eyes to real pain, suffering and injustice, and in turn perpetuate injustice to the people we are trying to serve.

We become blind to the fact that many of the ones we are trying to serve are rich in faith. They trust God enough to share with him their questions, complaints and fears. My friends in the inner-city teach me to be real with my emotions and pain. When I ask them the innocent question, “How are you?” they tell me all the details in high definition and colourful words. They do this because they trust that I won’t reject them. I will listen. They teach me to trust the heavenly Father in the same way. 

My friends help me to proclaim the words of the Psalmist.

Laments, ultimately lead to a deeper trust in the God, the defender of the fatherless. My friends help me to proclaim the words of the Psalmist with utter desperation: 

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror

Picture provided by the author.  

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