It's July 2008, and I am at a conference convened by the British & Irish School of Feminist Theology. I'm listening to Dr. Mary Grey speak about reconciliation… 'struggling with reconciling hearts and holding fast to our dreams'. Mary had been working in Rwanda, after the horrific massacres there of over one million Tutsi by their Hutu neighbours.
There was much discussion regarding the road to reconciliation - 'the restoration of right relationship' in the most difficult of circumstances - but the words which had the most profound effect on me were those of Jewish scholar Thalia Gur-Klein, who had lost members of her family in the Holocaust, when she stood up, paused and then commented that 'it is important and right to LAMENT THE SORROWS of what has been done to you, before one can consider reconciliation'.
Her comments are always in my consciousness, because I have seen so many times how much clients need their griefs and losses to just be heard and lamented, before they can ever make even the smallest steps towards the 'next steps'. Steps of consideration of how they can 're-frame' their pain, their agony, how they can possibly use it and transform it into something able to at least be lived with, and maybe even, in time, to be life transforming, for themselves or others.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are on many lips since the result of the Presidential Election in America on Wednesday knocked many of us sideways. Many - including myself - have quickly (perhaps, I think, too quickly) turned to trying to inject a little light, offer words of conciliation, even trying to start to forgive those who voted for a man whom I personally believe must be very, very soul-damaged, and as a result has become the egotistic, misogynistic, racist, xenophobe we now see as President-elect.
Anodyne words have been almost, I think, a knee-jerk reaction (again, I include myself in this) - but on reflection, I think we should take pause, and make space for Lamentation, before we ever start to once more look towards how we can contribute to putting light back into the world.
Weep, (I have)…wail (I have), acknowledge the 'Loss of Dreams' and the steps (nay, stampede) backwards. Think of all those who now live a little - or a lot - more in fear of their lives and the futures of their loved ones.
And then…and only then…reform, re-group and gird up for the long battle ahead to once more promote the values of optimism, transformation, inclusivity and compassion (you will certainly add others) to all those who may have chosen a different, more frightened, confrontational way.
Decide - really think about and decide what true values are important to you. Hold fast to them, then turn your face to the storm, link arms (both physically and metaphorically) with all those you love and put those values out there into the world.
'Be the change you wish to see in the world' - but first, make time for lamentation.
And always - be ready to take a walk in the woods and be healed by the ever open hands of Mother Nature.