10The elders of daughter Zion sit on the ground in silence; they have thrown dust on their heads and put on sackcloth; the young girls of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground.
11My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out on the ground because of the destruction of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city.
12They cry to their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” as they faint like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mothers’ bosom.
13What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter Jerusalem? To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can heal you?
14Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen oracles for you that are false and misleading.
15All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their heads at daughter Jerusalem; “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?”
16All your enemies open their mouths against you; they hiss, they gnash their teeth, they cry: “We have devoured her! Ah, this is the day we longed for; at last we have seen it!”
17The LORD has done what he purposed, he has carried out his threat; as he ordained long ago, he has demolished without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you, and exalted the might of your foes.
18Cry aloud to the Lord! O wall of daughter Zion! Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite!
As I write this, I am sitting on the back patio. The sun is shining in my face. It feels glorious. The squirrels are scurrying around. The birds are busy arranging booty calls for later in the day (somehow knowing that bird songs are mostly about sex makes them more appealing to me). Things are turning green. Cherry blossoms are blooming. Later today, I’m headed to a place I love to do a thing I love and then later tonight I will see a person I love.
All that’s to say, I’m really not interested in hearing Jeremiah’s whining. Things are bad for him, I get it. This is a disaster. He feels hopeless, I get it.
But why’s he gotta bring me down? It’s a beautiful spring day. Good things are happening. Why does everyone want to act like the world is not a glorious place?
There’s two things wrong with what I’ve written above (grammar aside, assholes!); 1) It’s hypocritical. When I’m struggling, I want people to know and I want people to care. I lament with the best of them and I hate when my laments are called whining. To me, they feel real. Important. Second, it lacks compassion. Maybe Jeremiah didn’t write these words to stir compassion in his audience. Maybe he simply meant this to be a cautionary tale, but there is no part of me that isn’t moved when I hear about babies fainting in the streets. As difficult as it can be to sit with our own lamentations, it can be even more so to sit with those of others.
A friend of a friend was shot recently. This friend of a friend mentioned that people don’t know what to say to them. It’s hard to be in the presence of other people’s pain. What do you say? How can you help? Do you try to relate? Do you just shut up and listen? That’s typically my default. Whether we do or say anything that is the “right thing”, our hearts should be stirred. We should be pricked by the pointed reality of our neighbor.
I confess that as often as I seek compassion from others, I am not nearly as compassionate as I should be. Lord, forgive me. Break my heart with the things that break your heart.