What is Lament?

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lament lockdown laundry

I’ve found it best to get into a rhythm and routine with laundry. I’m sure if you’re over the age of twenty-three, you’ve found this out too. We also know what happens when there is a disruption in this system. One day the pile of dirty clothes is a manageable collection, consisting of a couple of pairs of undies, a t-shirt and some jeans. Yet somehow just one day later the pile now resembles a life side model of Mt Kilimanjaro. The white bed sheet on top, imitating the white snow caps.

Life at the moment feels like a bad laundry day. Something disrupted the universe’s laundry routine and we mere mortals here on earth are suffering the fall out from that mistake.

If I was a pastor right now, I’d be talking about lament. Influenced by my personality, I think it’s important to take time to sit and acknowledge the mess that we are surrounded by, before attempting to look for hope and a purpose. While it might seem easy to simply shut the door on the laundry, and dream about a magical day when the laundry saviour, or our mum, will come and clean up the mess. It is probably more important for us, collectively and individually sit and acknowledge the mess. Feel the weight that burdens us. Perhaps it is only after we start to smell like week-old washing, that it is time to begin the process of sorting it out.

Lament is an odd topic. “What is lament?” one of my friends asked me while at bible study. She’s grown up in a pentecostal faith tradition. Crudely, they’re the Christians that you see on TV with big mega-churches, stages that look like a rock concert and everyone seems to be oddly happy. At the time, I didn’t have a coherent response.

Lament is counter-cultural to the Westen ideal of “up and too the right thinking”. If you imagine a graph, say business profit over time, the ‘ideal’ picture that this graph would make is a line trending from the lower-left corner, to the upper right corner. House prices, stock markets, church attendance. All ideal candidates for ‘up and to the right’ thinking.


When was the last time that you stopped and breathed? Filled your lungs with air so that your chest expanded so much that it almost hurt? Shallow breathing is the norm in our western culture. Lament is about stopping long enough to take notice of your breath. Lament is about inhaling so deeply that you notice the sheer size of your chest cavity.

“Have you got your learners?” It was day one of my work experience week. Several weeks earlier I had turned 16 - the legal age to learn to drive where I lived. I grabbed my bright yellow L plates, stuck them onto the front and rear of the van as my boss for the week threw me the keys to the Van. He hated driving. We drove a lot that week. “The wake is the most important part of the funeral” he remarked as we drove down the main street of town one day. I was confused by what he meant. “There is something important about gathering afterwards and trading stories. Healing happens in that space”. Without knowing it, he had just described lament in practice.

As I write this, my home state of Victoria is battling its fifth round of lockdowns. Like a thick fog, ’lockdown fatigue’ has blanketed the state. Once again parents have simultaneously been kicked out of the office and turned into teachers. The tap of social connections has been turned off for those who live alone. Single parents whose only break is sending their children off to school are faced with an endless groundhog day. Life has lost its structure, that we have spent so much time, effort and energy to perfectly assemble. There has been a loss, a death if you will, to the old ways, the old normal.

“Life seems to slow down,” remarked my mother upon reflecting on the recent experience of watching a loved one in their final days of life. I imagine that it feels similar to the times where I catch myself breathing. Obviously, something that we all do several times a minute, each day, but somehow time stands still in those moments I become aware of taking a deep breath.

Lament is like that, stopping long enough to become aware of the rhythm of our life.

Lament is a stopping Lament is an awareness Lament is a reflection on the loss that once was.

Lament is a tool that allows us to continue to move through life, to help us try and make sense of this weird place we call earth, and this experience we call life.

May you find space today to notice your breath. To notice the rhythm of your life and what is stopping you from taking a deep, relaxing, breath. May you also find space to get on top of the ever-growing pile of laundry.