Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lamentations

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3: 19-22

I have talked about my love affair with Lamentations before. I can't explain it, really. Maybe it's the non-degree holding English major within me, the one who once drooled over the Bronte sisters and actually enjoyed writing papers about the symbolism in their classic novels. Lamentations is this amazingly poetic little book in the Bible, full of symbolism and grief and hope. The first time I read it, I immediately picked up this voice in my mind ~ the voice of the exploited, abused woman who has trusted and believed in all the wrong people. And still, I hear it today when I read it. And then, I started looking into the history of the book, what was going on at the time, and that's when my love for the words grew even more. The kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Babylonians, and the temple and all its sacred contents had been burned. Everything that the people of Israel held valuable was gone. It's been theorized (though obviously can't be proven) that the Ark of the Covenant was burned. Now, if you remember, the Ark was the most holy sacred item, contained the tablets that the Ten Commandments were written upon, and the very spirit of Yahweh was believed to dwell there.

When I think about how low the people of Israel must have felt, seeing their city, their sacred items, their temple gone, well, it sets the book in another light. It was an awful time. The Babylonians took some of the people of the city of Jerusalem captive, and left others there in the ruins to die. Literally, no food or water ~ starving and dying in the streets surrounded by the ruins of the once favored city of God's chosen people. How did this happen?

It all came down to trust in the wrong things and the wrong people. Putting something other than God first. The Israelites were warned by Isaiah and Jeremiah to turn away from the idols and not to befriend the Babylonians or God would destroy them. But the people did not listen, and they paid the ultimate price. Everything that was holy to them was destroyed.

Lamentations brought something to light in my soul from my own life. I learned through Lamentations that I, too, had been foolish. I had trusted the wrong people despite the quiet voice in my heart telling me something wasn't right. I put idols before God during many times in my life, and I ultimately lost something incredibly sacred, my own Ark of the Covenant filled with holy artifacts. The temple of my heart went up in flames, all that was holy and priceless to me was gone. Funny how dependence on anything or anyone other than God brings about flames, whether in the early centuries or modern times. Back then, the flames were quite literal; these days, they are internal.

In the middle of this book lamenting the fall of the city of Jerusalem comes one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

Never. Never fail. Love never fails. Because of the LORD's great love (and we know that love never fails). God's compassions never fail either. Did I mention how I love to hear the word never in the Scriptures? Have you noticed how nutty I am about specific words lately?

I wish I were more educated on the Hebrew and the Greek and the meaning of this word and that word and on Bible history. But I am not. So, I can't write some educated explication of the verse. All I can tell you is what it means to me. You may or may not understand my love affair with Lamentations, and that's okay. You may or may not think, "Tamara is beginning to live out that CRAZY part of her blog name!" And that's probably true... I've always been crazy about the words my Savior has left behind for me to read, whether I have chosen to live by them or not.

I think today, more than ever, I am just now beginning to appreciate how the Lord has brought me out of one thing and into another. The pieces of my life, even the ugly ones, are now starting to fit together. The picture is still not complete, and I can't even figure out what the Lord is has in store for me, but I do know that it's beautiful. No doubt about that.

So that's my verse. From Lamentations, one of the most depressing books of the Bible, and the one in which this CRAZY Mama happens to adore. But if you've been that low in your spirit before, you will understand my crazy fascination. Have you been there before? Have you ever read Lamentations? I'd love to know... mainly love to know if I am the only one who has ever read and actually enjoyed the book...

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