Skip to content Skip to footer

Lament Takes Our Theology And Puts It Into Loving Practice

“It’s a harsh reality and it’s our truth, it’s our history. And it’s something that we’ve always had to fight to prove. To me, it’s always been a horrible, horrible history,”[1] – Chief Casimir  

In Tara Sutton’s article, Canada has lost its halo: we must confront our Indigenous genocide, she soberly reports what she terms ‘Canada’s dirty secret.’[2] 

The secret? The genocide of Indigenous children over the last two centuries. Canada, known more for its kindness and apologetic nature has within its history an atrocity discovered in the residential school system – obligatory boarding schools funded by the Canadian government and run by both Protestant and Catholic churches. Sutton goes on to say about the school system, “Indigenous children were forced to attend. They were malnourished, often sexually and physically abused, and used as guinea pigs for medical experiments.”[3]

Yet this level of abuse was not the deepest ‘dirty secret’ of discovery through a multi-year process of interviewing 6500 witnesses. The most disturbing finding was the discovery of thousands of unmarked graves of missing indigenous children. A sad truth carried and spoken by Indigenous families to those who could help but did not believe or care.

In the broader scope, the approximately five percent of the Canadian population called Indigenous has, throughout the country’s history, suffered at such a rate that one report came to the ‘inescapable conclusion’ that Canada, from its precolonial past until the present, had aimed to destroy Indigenous people.[4]

Does this secret from the north of our borders sound eerily familiar? It does as we recognize that within our nation, a similar and much larger racial terrorization of people groups embodies our history. And here is the deeper issue or question, ‘What do we do with such a pain that may not be connected ethnically but humanly?”

Mary Glenn offers an apt answer to this question, “Lament is the practice of naming and navigating personal and communal pain, longing, and loss, especially in relationship to vocation, calling, and God’s shalom work.”[5] 

Lament is the work of taking our theology into practice.  We recognize that God values life (Genesis 1:26-27; Matthew 6:26), designed all humanity with a purpose (Jeremiah 1:7; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:10), and reserves one of His highest priorities to the care of His children (Psalm 127:3-5; Isaiah 45:9-11; Matthew 18:1-7, 9:22-26).  These values compel us to act toward the innocent, whose lives should be preserved and protected. 

We begin with lament to center our hearts on God’s heart that is near to the suffering (Hosea 12:6) and gives witness to the abused and afflicted (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). 

In Emmanuel Katongole’s book, Born from Lament: The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa, he reminds us that lament not only turns us toward God but turns God toward us and others.[6]  Katongole reminds us in tragedies such as found in Canada that lament is the belief that what we feel in the silence of God’s action, we still assail God for hope, shalom, and deliverance.

From lament, we listen to the assignment to bring justice to the injustice we face

(Proverbs 24:11-12, 31:8-9).

Brueggeman comments on the need to be attentive to writings as it chronicles what goes on among us, the healings and betrayals, the reality of power sought and gained, of brokenness and gifts and victories. All of that belongs to these “sorts and conditions” for whom we pray.[7] 

When the news of discovering the unmarked graves of Indigenous children began to circulate, I recognized immediate grief and the burden to pray and reflect, as Brueggeman suggested. Although, as Canadians, we sometimes have an unconscious cultural arrogance that we are not as bad as fill in a blank country regarding racial discrimination, as Sutton stated, our halo as Canadians got removed in front of the world. And I felt shame on two levels—first, an apparent ignoring of the longing and losses of the Indigenous people of my home. Second, the atrocity committed by both Catholics and Protestants.

So, it has caused my pursuit of racial reconciliation as a justice advocate to broaden my understanding of the pain of the people who inhabited this land before slavery, internment camps, and immigration.  And it has confirmed my passion for reaching the body of Christ with the message of Kingdom justice, not to see this repeated.

In Mary Glenn’s article, Responding to Suicide With the Ministry of God’s Presence, she challenges us in the following when advocating and lamenting with those outside our ethnic identity,

“There are countless cultural, ethnic, religious, and geographic traditions with regard to loss. It is paramount that I reflect on my own cultural, vocational, and life experience with, understanding of, and responses to grief. In addition to being aware of my lenses, I try to be sensitive to the lens and understanding of those whose worlds I step into. Their cultural experience with and practices of grief could be starkly different from my own. There is no normative approach to death, including suicide—but there are best practices that span the diversity.”[8]

I recognize that I am not Indigenous and must be aware of what I bring in grieving, supporting, lamenting, and advocating on behalf of this injustice.  Nevertheless, I can, as Soong-Chan Rah suggests, “embrace the suffering of others as an instrumental aspect of well-being.”[9]

I can participate in the 94 calls to action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.[10]

I can stop, remember, weep, be present, and offer the following lament.


Here is my attempt at writing a Lament.  It is not my first and it will not be my last but it is my heart in the moment.

“The absence of a funeral dirge creates an emotional and spiritual vacuum. Not only is proper mourning required for the loss of one made in the image of God, but there is the ensuing shame that a human life was handled without dignity. Lament will not allow us to revert to the easy answers. There are no easy answers to unabated suffering. Lament continues.”  – Soong-Chan Rah

Oh God, what does it mean to be first?

To be applauded, lauded, and highly rewarded.

To be seen, heard, and valued.

To be welcomed, accepted, and honored.

To be favored, blessed, and loved.

We are called as a people First Nation, but we have not seen the benefit of the title.

Oh God, what does it mean to be first?

You said the first would be last, and the last would be first.

Are we last or first? Are we last and first?

Are we waiting for the future exchange of seats and simply must wait in the suffering of our present?

Are you asking us to bear the weight of first in the title as an ironic prophetic hope not at all realized in the present or accepted among those who were second to our home?

Oh God, what does it mean to be first?

We were first but treated as last.  We were first but treated as strangers and strange.

We were first on the land but seen as intruders, not owners.

We were first to discover the land, to love the land, and to protect the land, but history records us as tour guides and trespassers.

Oh God, what does it mean to be first?

When our daughters, mothers, and sisters go missing.

When our children are buried without memorial or dirge.

When our sons, fathers, and brothers have been reduced to being the villain in the dominant culture’s hero story.

When our ways are not seen as sacred but scary.

When our pursuit of you is seen as primitive and peculiar.

When we are asked to no longer be what You created us to be, look like You beautifully designed, sound like Your voice, and live as Your image on earth.

When we are no longer seen as human but as a hindrance.

Oh God, what does it mean to be first?

It has meant for us years of humiliation, suffering, and shame.

It has meant the sacrifice of our ways, screams not heard, and weeping not witnessed.

We no longer want the title if that is what we are called to be.

You said we are your masterpiece, your children, your image.

An image bearing the truth of who you are uniquely expressed in who we are. 

We display an aspect of your color, your hue, and your heart.

Do you see us? 

Our mockers and oppressors certainly do not!

Oh God, when will they see what first means to you?

Not a champion who ridicules the defeated.

Not crowned to be an oppressor to those who are ruled.

Not empowered to break the weak but to restore and set free.

Not land takers but mutual residents of Your Shalom.

Not indoctrinators to dominant culture but inclusive ambassadors to your Kingdom.

Oh, God teaches us again to be first.

First, to love. First, to sacrifice. First, to repent. First, to forgive. First to invite. 

First, to lament. First, to hope. First, to endure.

First and to no longer be seen as the last.

But first to last until every TRIBE, TONGUE, and NATION surrounds your throne. 

And gives honor to the truly FIRST NATION of all humanity, Jesus.

Oh, God, teach us again to be first.

Picture Credit: Dried flowers rest inside a pair of child’s running shoes at a memorial for the 215 children whose remains were found at the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School at Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C., on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, June 4, 2021. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP)

[1] “Explained: Canada’s cultural genocide of Indigenous people.” TRTWORLD June 25, 2021.

[2] Tara Sutton, “Canada Has Lost Its Halo: We Must Confront Our Indigenous Genocide | Tara Sutton,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, June 29, 2021),

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mary Glenn, “Week 5 Formation Group Discussion OR Synchronous Video Chat Option with Professor” October 26, 2022,

[6] Emmanuel Katongole, Born from Lament: The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017).Retrieved from ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from fuller on 2022-10-26 21:40:51.

[7] Walter Brueggeman, Praying the Psalm:Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit, (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007. Retrieved from ProQuest Ebook Central,
Created from fuller on 2022-10-26 22:26:42.

[8] Mary Glenn, “Responding to suicide with the Ministry of God’s Presence,” Fuller Studio (August 28, 2019),

[9] Soong-Chan Rah, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, (InterVarsity Press, 2015. Retrieved from ProQuest Ebook Central,
Created from fuller on 2022-10-27 00:25:49.

[10] “Delivering on Truth and Reconcilation Commission Calls to Action: Government of Canada’s progress in responding to the Truth and Reconcilation Commison 94 Calls to Action.” (Government of Canada, September 7, 2022),

Leave a comment