Another challenge for us might be the culture our community has become accustomed to: a taken-for- granted collection of things we call ‘lifestyle, customs and values’. Someone has famously said, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. In other words, if we have a hardhearted layer in our culture that takes prayer lightly—in particular the public lamentation kind of prayer—there may need to be some plowing of the ground of our hearts before we are even ready for this. And such plowing work will not be primarily directed at the will, most likely it will be aimed at a deeply psychological/sociological kind of sin—much of which is not really our fault, for its roots go all the way back to our teachers, heroes and forebears. Such plowing will require both deep pain and deep miracle. Without that, the very first steps we take will be undermined by spiritual pride: the thought that ‘we can do this too’.
So, why public? Because public equates to validation, frees us from the curse of denial and allows for important gifts to be passed on to our children, especially the gifts of symbol, story and language. Amos Wilder explains, ‘There is no “world” for us until we have named, languaged and storied whatever is. What we take to be the nature of things has been shaped by calling it so.’5
In our western context, we have important words (named and languaged words) in our vocabulary, which enable us. But when it comes to our ‘hurting and exiled’ stories it seems that we need help from each other and from God to publicly ‘name and language’ them, to discover enabling symbols and rituals that would be fitting gifts—even a legacy—for our children and our friends. There will of course be some of this that can only be expressed non-verbally, for there is a big part of us that has no language and must speaks via the silence of symbols, pilgrimages, gestures and instrumental music.
5 Wilder A. as quoted by Brueggemann W. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, (Westminster John Know Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2003) p. xiii