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A Lament of God’s People: Reflection of Psalm 42

by Jamie Martinez MDiv BCC

APC Forum, October 2019, Vol. 21 No. 6


I am a chaplain in a level one trauma hospital.  Every day, I walk out the doors in wonderment, saying to myself "you can't make this stuff up". As many of my chaplain colleagues may understand—to step into a waiting room suffused with anxiety, to move into a hospital room with a story waiting to be heard is to find one's self on holy ground.  A place of longing and lament. It is not uncommon to hear a family praying to God for a miracle--with fervent hope--in one breath, and in the next breath hear them literally cry out with anger and sorrow to God. To lament is an act of faith. To sit with people in their lament is sacred. It is an act of bearing witness to the dance between sorrow and hope, fear and remembrance over and over again. I was invited to offer a reflection, based on Psalm 42, in a Good Friday service. I found myself thinking of what a modern lament would sound like through the voices of those with whom I have worked.
 
Let us listen for the lament of God's people.
 
As a new mother longs for her baby to take one more breath and live
As a sister longs for good news about her brother involved in a shooting 
As a husband longs for his wife to come out of a code blue alive
So my soul longs for God.
 
As parents of an eight-year-old girl long for the diagnosis to not be leukemia
As a heroin addict longs for both freedom from the cycle and yet one more hit
As a domestic violence survivor longs for safety
So my soul longs for God. 
 
Our tears have been our food day and night. They anoint our faces and the bodies of our loved ones with saltiness. Some people cry out "God never gives you more than you can handle." Others utter "God needed another angel” or "God is testing you" 
And that all feels like the world has taken our God and left in its place,”where is your God now?"
 
These things we remember as we pour out our souls...
The joy of feeling the baby move for the first time,
The laughter of the brother
The sight of a beautiful bride, 60 years ago, walking down the aisle
The precious eight-year-old girl dancing in her recital
The taste of Mom's home cooking before the addiction took hold
The feeling of being wrapped--safely--in the arms of a loving family.
 
Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God...
  
Our souls are downcast...
I want to hear my baby cry. I want my brother to tease me again.  I want to hold my wife close one last time. We want to watch our daughter dance through her WHOLE life, I want to be able to taste food once again and go home, I want to be loved without being afraid. 
 
Therefore, we remember you, O God...
From the rugged mountains to the desert skies.
From church aisles to welcoming dinner tables.
From theater stages to noisy playgrounds.
From the patient rooms to the glare of hospital lights.
In all places, we remember you.
Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and billows have gone over me. 
 
By day when reality hits us in the face--
When the baby dies only moments after birth, 
When the brother is killed 
When the code ends and the wife is gone
When the diagnosis is leukemia
When the addiction rears its ugly head
When the pull towards the one who hits over and over again is too strong--
Your love, O Lord, is still there. 
 
And at night--when the world grows quiet and we are alone 
to hold our precious baby who will never breathe again,
to fall on to the floor of the hospital waiting room in grief,
to crawl into bed where the wife will never sleep again,
to google chances of child surviving leukemia,
to battle the nausea and pain that comes from withdrawal,
and to wonder why we long for the arms of the one who bruises—
it is then Your Song is within us...
A prayer to the God of our lives. 
 
We say to God, our rock
"why have you forgotten us? 
It feels like there is a deadly wound in our hearts--how will we ever survive this?!
And our adversaries taunt us. 
"If God is so good, where is He now?"
 
Why are cast down, o my soul?
Hope in God.
We shall praise him, our help and our God. 


Rev. Jamie Martinez is a Board Certified Chaplain working at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. Jamie finds joy in the New Mexican sunsets, mountains, green chile, and writing.