“How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.”
—Lamentations 1:1 (NRSV).
Calamity and ruin hit the heart in an instant as the soul is carried off into exile—not an entire nation this time; just a single person, and it’s us! For these sharp hours of the initiation it seems we’re strangely numb yet we hardly want it as real and as stark as it is right now.
How would it have been to be carried off into exile? Everything you ever knew and held dear, gone! Sure, the troupe travels together, but God’s blown away—the Presence of God—gone is the Foundation of the people of God. It’s not really something that we Westerners will ordinarily identify with, except that is, if it occurs that we (personally) are the nation (the entity) carried off, with all sense of identity departed.
Our foundation can also be ripped away. It happens far easier than we think. And that’s just it; we don’t think about it until it happens—and why should we?
Driving around in a daze in the midnight hours, alone without another soul knowing (or caring) as the exile had just begun. It’s harrowing stuff. Perhaps it’s a lost job; lost relationships/partners certainly cover it; or perhaps it’s even material loss—bankruptcy even. It’s an oblivion we couldn’t foresee and therefore it’s something we couldn’t plan or prepare for.
Desolation blows through the ghost town of the soul for a time; harsh shallow winds bring a streaming rain of blasting dust intent on eroding the sensitive soul. Eeriness—the lack of presence—all except a tirade of loneliness. Utterly cast down, and never to be risen; not for the finite times before us, anyway.
But, just like the 70-year exile was for the Israelites, the time comes for us to resume our planned activities as the problems that beset us are sooner or later overthrown. The period in the wilderness is here for a time and it seems like an eternity, yet it passes, inevitably.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.