“…the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” — Anne Lamott
The Bible frequently speaks of mourning with “sackcloth and ashes”, i.e., the practice of tearing your clothes and covering yourself with grime as a sign of mourning. Not just any mourning, but the mourning that breaks your heart, tears you down, and leaves you as empty and weightless as the ashes smeared on your skin. It’s the heartrending cry of a hopeless human towards God.
Very few moments, if any, in my life have made me feel like it’s a good time to try out the practice.
But after reading about the death of the woman known to the public as Amanat (an Urdu word meaning “treasure”) after the brutal attack she suffered on a New Delhi bus, perhaps I’m a little closer to understanding it. On December 16th, she was raped. She was beaten with iron rods. She was thrown off the bus and into the street. She spent over ten days in critical care before finally passing away.
What can you possibly do in the face of that?
How do we grieve for the people we don’t know, have never met, and can never comfort?
Normally, injustice provokes me to anger. I rant, I pace, I expel bursts of hot, vengeful energy while typing up a piece or taking a stand. But we have seen so much injustice lately, and my anger is used up. Too many people are dying. Too many situations and events are immersed in sheer darkness. My passion is useless in the face of all that, my anger is impotent.
So what do we do? What can we do? We mourn.
I have cried, lit a candle, and prayed a prayer that was more sobs than words. I have hugged the people I love, bowed my head, and said her name. I am vowing to remember her, and all the suffering in the world along with her. I am vowing to change, to do something other than my daily life, and to care more about those around me.
So much exists that adds darkness to the world, so we do the best we can to add light and love. We do the small things, the things too little to matter but large enough to add up. We brew a cup of tea. We buy a hot meal for a homeless person. We bite our tongues instead of saying that particular thing we’d really like to say (or shout) to the person that has crossed us today. We knit ourselves and our world back together one slow, uncertain stitch at a time. We cry when we need to, and laugh at the funny things.
Nothing on this earth can fix what happened in New Delhi. Nothing short of the kingdom come can fix all the brokenness in our world, in our hearts, and in our lives.
But God came, and God said, “I’ll be a human in this brokenness with you.” And that’s all we have to do. Accept that we are human, broken, and empty, but keep taking our little steps towards life and love and light and God. Like Anne Lamott says, we practice radical hope.
I hope that honors the memory of Amanat, even if just a little.
Rest In Peace, Amanat
December 29th, 2012