As I read the 137th Psalm, it pierced me as it never has before. It's a song of mourning, a song of the weeping and wailing of the captive. The African-American experience mirrors the Jewish experience in so many ways.
This brought to mind my enslaved ancestors, hiding their pains and sorrows with a false smile because their captors required they live the fiction of a happy captivity. "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" the psalmist cries, as they strive to never forget from whence they came.
The final two verses are brutal, a desire that their captors be rewarded with the same that they meted out. From those who have suffered through the cries of their own children is the bitter response: "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones [the children of Babylon] against the stones.
Often we look to the Bible to cheer us up. We're told sorrow is evidence of a lack of faith. Chin up, ye Christians! Represent your God by putting on a happy face. But just as there is a time to laugh, there is indeed a time to cry. And sometimes the human condition is so terrible that weeping and mourning is the only justifiable response.
Whether we're mastered by the shackles of slavery or the shackles of sin we must permit each other to cry sometimes. "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" we wonder. Yet, how can we not? The Lord God can bear our tears. Did he not cry himself?