Lent for the Lamenting

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

“There are recovery programs for people grieving the loss of a parent, sibling, or spouse. You can buy books on how to cope with the death of a beloved pet or work through the anguish of a miscarriage. We speak openly with one another about the bereavement that can accompany a layoff, a move, a diagnosis, or a dream deferred. But no one really teaches you how to grieve the loss of your faith, or the loss of your faith as it once was. You’re on your own for that.” – Searching for Sunday


As the season of Lent commences, I am aware this year of all who find themselves in a season of frustration, grief, and lament over the church or their place in it. The evangelical embrace of Trumpism. The abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention. The United Methodist Church’s divisions over LGBTQ inclusion. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t reach out to me, in person or online, to tell me they feel betrayed by their family of faith—by what has been done, and by what has been left undone.

This path of lament is a well-worn one for me, so for the next forty days, I’ll be taking to social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and here on the blog—to share quotes, music, books, podcast episodes, prayers, and other resources that have been especially helpful to me in acknowledging the wounding of the church (both personally and systemically) and working toward healing (both personally and systemically).

If you want to read along, I’ll be drawing most heavily from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith by Lisa Sharon Harper, Mae Elise Cannon, Troy Jackson, and Soong-Chan Rah, Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor, and Searching for Sunday by Yours Truly. I hope the series will be helpful.

It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or your doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called “none” (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Death is a part of life.

My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

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