Throughout my last two jobs, I’ve had the same folded-up xerox copy of the first page of a memoir which has the following lines attributed to an anonymous Vietnamese poem taped to the wall above my desk:
We fill the craters left by the bombs
And once again we sing
And once again we sow
Because life never surrenders.
These words struck me when reading the memoir, but these days I don’t remember why. Over the last three years, I’ve thought a great deal about trauma and grief. First motivated to begin understanding it more while working with the survivors of homicide-loss, and then through my own personal journey through difficult work days, and now in the context of the lives of my individual clients as well as communities in which we work for transformation and development.
The notion that suffering and pain, while seen to be inherently private and uber-personal, is in reality communal and fundamentally social, the words are becoming more and more haunting.
As the church moves into communities of violence, systemic injustice, stigma, poverty, materialism, greed, addiction and isolation, we are often afraid to sing songs that the people waiting for the kingdom have sung for hundreds upon hundred of years…
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
(from Psalm 137)
As a people waiting and working for transformation, before we fill the craters, before we take on life again, we must tell the dirty truth about our loss and despair and all that is wrong and evil and messy and undone in the world, in our private and personal worlds, and in our communal and social worlds. If we, those who hold the promise that life never surrenders, can’t tell the truth about the mess of it all, then we aren’t yet ready, aren’t yet brave enough, to sing and sow once again.