Now you are a prophet. Yes, you. I have already named you. It is already done.
You don’t have to tell the future – although if you do, that’s ok. You don’t have to live in the wilderness and eat locusts and honey – although if you do, that’s ok.
Being a prophet is more about living and speaking truth into life right now, where we stand. It’s about helping your people live more in line with what is right and good. It’s about healing the world around you.
But I will be honest with you: it is not always easy, or happy, or work that people applaud. It will probably not gain you social standing or powerful friends. If you are a person of privilege, you will now be walking in the margins of society, and it might get you hurt.
You can choose to walk away from this calling if you want. That’s always an option.
But I hope you don’t, because we need you.
If you do decide to step into your role, it’s made up, as far as I know, of three things: Prophetic Lament, Naming the Shadow, and Living the Light.
This post is about Prophetic Lament.
We live in a society that values a stiff upper lip. It’s gotten us through some hard times without breakdown. It’s also been a breeding ground for mental illness, disconnection from one another, and an unwillingness to stop and understand the consequences of our decisions so that we keep going when we should change course.
There is no value for us as prophets in a stiff upper lip. We are, as Glennon Doyle Melton dubbed us, “The canaries in the coal mine.” We should be the first to feel it if things are not as they should be, and the first to grieve over it.
Prophetic lament is simply the act of grieving over the pain and suffering of the world.
Here are some thoughts on that:
It will never get any easier.
You will never develop a thicker skin. The thousandth time you look at suffering will hurt more than the hundredth time you look at suffering, because empathy softens our hearts, making them easier to break.
I used to wonder if I’d go through life with a perpetually broken heart. The answer, I’ve found, is yes – but I prefer to think of it as an open heart now, not a broken one. And the wonderful thing about an open heart is that it can receive more too.
It will make people angry.
Have you ever noticed the backlash when the country mourns another person of color killed by the police? Usually, it goes something like, “He was a thug, and he deserved what he got! I don’t understand why you’re all so damn upset about it!”
Why can’t they just let people be sad? I’m not exactly sure, but I imagine it’s because lamentation calls attention to things people would rather not deal with, much less take responsibility for.
In the past, it caught me by surprise when normally calm, gentle people in my life were enraged by mine or another friend’s lament. It would have been better if I had been prepared.
During those times, I usually take many steps back from the relationship, and that’s always a viable option. If you don’t feel like you can address your friend’s inappropriate response without personally attacking them, that might be the only option at the time.
But if you feel you are able, you might instead gently remind your friend that they cannot police others’ feelings. Don’t argue about why you feel the way you do. Just ask them to respect the fact that you’re grieving.
In order to grieve for the world, you have to know what’s going on in the world.
The most lonely feeling is grieving alone. As a prophet, part of the healing you bring to the world is grieving with it. And to do that, you need to know what’s going on.
Following current events is good, but large news companies don’t usually report on what happens in minority communities. You must also find a news source from inside those communities. This has the additional advantage of giving you a perspective from someone actually living under oppression, rather than someone simply reporting on it.
Here are some of my favorite sources for keeping up with what’s going on in the world. If you have any to add, please let me know in the comments!
(Note: A lot of these are Twitter accounts. Whether you like Twitter or not, I recommend getting an account just so you can keep up with what’s going. The Black Lives Matter movement in particular happens on Twitter.)