On Corporate Grief

2 Samuel 1 provides us with one of David’s elegant and poignant laments. There are many Psalms and poems attributed to him. Among other things, David was good at articulating emotion. (Remember his shame when Nathan confronted him concerning Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite?) What I like about this particular lament (some would call it a dirge) is that he sets aside his own agenda in order to call Israel to corporate grief.
Saul didn’t treat David very well. His paranoia got the best of him, literally, and he died a defeated and broken man. This could have been David’s opportunity to speak of his own guilt and anger and fear. He could have used the opportunity to take charge.
But, he didn’t. Instead, he recognized Israel’s need to grieve so that they could move forward into a new and transformed future. His lament is filled with pathos. He challenges them to view their pain and see all that they have lost. It’s as if he’s saying, “Don’t forget. Don’t forget all that Saul did, both for the good and not so good.  It’s all a part of our history. Remember.”
We don’t grieve corporately very well. We’re a people of “stiff upper lip” and “get over it.” There’s no time for lamenting that which is lost. No time to ponder what this loss will mean for our history. No time to shed tears and feel sorry for what we’ve lost.
Big boys (and girls) don’t cry.
One could argue that David was a political genius. That this lament is fake, at least in some parts, and that we shouldn’t take it seriously. I think David truly was politically savvy. And that’s the best part of this.
For in writing the lament and insisting that Israel memorize it, he was allowing them time to move through the sadness and anguish so that they would be ready to accept his leadership of Israel.
Phony? Spinning?
Perhaps. But, out of this lament comes something else. David voiced his own grief and pain and anger. He purged himself so that he could enter his new role free of baggage.
No wonder he was a man after God’s own heart.

2 responses to “On Corporate Grief

  • Charlie Freeland

    Savvy is a good term for David. He understood the confederacy nature of Israel and that it would take hard work (7 years) on his part to become indispensable to the northern tribes. It’s also important to remember who is writing about David (probably Jeremiah) and the nations need to understand its roots, its need to grieve, to feel shame before God, and consider new and different posibilities (like accepting a new status as a defeated state).

  • sandybach

    I wonder what would happen if we were courageous enough to feel corporate shame before God today?

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