It doesn’t surprise me that I love the Psalms.
Not just any of the Psalms. The dark ones. The sad ones. The ones heavy with lament and questioning.
I have always been one to gravitate towards sadness. Instead of running from my emotions, I wade through them. I’ve listened to music thick with emotion for most of my life, from the R&B of my younger years, to the metal-core of my adolescence. Unlike the white boys who dominate heavy musical genres such as metal, much of my sadness is connected to my experience in the world as someone silenced because of the identities I embody. When I read the Scriptures, I find my sadness reflected back to me in the words of the Psalmists, as well as with other books in the Bible that navigate the waters of heavy emotion.
When I read the Psalms, I find a container for my sadness as a black girl. A queer black woman. Someone living within the margins, rendered invisible by intersecting systems of oppression. Someone living with depression and anxiety. Someone estranged and struggling to make peace with her mother and father. Someone who passionately loves God but at times feels failed by God.
Life within a racist and sexist society has made it that I often feel that no one sees or cares what I am going through. Often, it can feel as though my sadness is only seen by the Psalmists. It comforts me to know that there has existed a community of people before me with such complex feeling about their experiences in the world, and their relationship with God. It is liberating to know that I am allowed to feel these things as a Christian, and that my feelings are even canon, for what that’s worth.
A peer of mine recently told me that there are no citations for Psalm 44. As someone who lives so regularly with sadness this surprised me that others have not written about this Psalm. Psalm 44 is a difficult Psalm with a voice that sounds resentful, perhaps betrayed.
Though it may seem like a sign or lack of faithfulness to God to live in deep feelings of lament, anger, doubt and sadness, I’d argue that it’s not. We are reminded that Jesus, the main example of our Christian faith, was a man of great sorrows himself, deeply despised by many and experiencing complicated emotions such as rage and distress and doubt throughout his ministry on Earth.
Jesus knows this black girl sadness. Jesus understands this black girl despair –this despair that looms over me when injustice towards Nabra, Philando Castille, Charleena and many unnamed people happen all in the same week. Jesus sees this black girl rage.
Christ sees your sadness, despair and rage, too. And Christ does not run from it.
It is said that we cannot fully experience joy if we are not willing to embrace sadness. So often, the mainstream (read: white) church runs away from lament. Jesus, too, is removed from his accounts of lamentation, with narratives of a victorious Jesus dominating the American church’s liturgies and hymnals. The powerful within the Church seem afraid of these raw emotions. So much so that they leave Psalms like Psalm 44 without commentary.
#BlackGirlPsalms is about community– community created through the vulnerability of lament, of expressing despair and dissatisfaction with the unjust world, with a hungry and gruesome empire, and with the apathy of those who claim to love us. It is important for those associated with darkness to interpret the Psalms.
May you find community in sharing your grief. In sharing your rage. May your grief serve a purpose and not be consumed by the gaze of power. May you find a God who cares. And may you also find a people and a Church that will hold you in this grief, so that you may be delivered towards a more faithful embodiment in the world. May #BlackGirlPsalms provide such a space.