I hate crying. It’s lame. Especially in front of people. Super lame. Especially if it’s not an “appropriate” time or place to cry–-like at work. Is there anything worse than tearing up in a board room in front of your professional peers? It seriously frustrates me when tears come out of nowhere. If you’re a woman, you might know what I’m talking about. If you’re a man, you might be uncomfortable just reading a post about crying “out loud.”
Growing up, I was a sensitive little girl, and when I’d get upset over something, my dad would get very practical. He’d help me see the logic in the situation and tell me to “buck up.” Even when I got pregnant at age 18, his first reaction with me wasn’t emotional. His first reaction was, “Well, what’s your plan?” and then he helped me make a list. My dad is the king of making a list and getting things done! I really admire that about him, and I dare say I’ve inherited that valuable skill set. Crying wasn’t really something we indulged in.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve had plenty of situations that led me to tear up in public. This has always been mortifying to me because I saw it as a sign of weakness in myself. Ironically, I didn’t mind as much when others cried; I could empathize with them, and it usually endeared them to me. However, I did not have as much grace for myself. I was stronger than that and if I cried in front of people, they might think I was — you know — VULNERABLE. Lame.
This is probably why I often tear up while watching Hallmark commercials and championship sporting events. My sister and my son love to tease me about this. If a sappy commercial comes on or if someone wins something they’ve worked hard for, they look over to confirm that I have tears streaming down my face. And then they laugh at me. And then I laugh at me. It’s one of our things.
I suppress my tears in “real life” and they need a place to come out. Having an emotional response to people on TV was safe because it was usually in the privacy of my own living room. I strove for control over my own emotions and yet my emotions really ruled me. I usually ate them to suppress them. Food is a common emotional suppressant, but emotions aren’t really something we can control. We can choose how we act or react when we have emotions, but feelings are a part of how God designed us to be. We can’t suppress one emotion (sorrow, for example), without suppressing the rest of our emotions (like joy). Without a full range of emotions, we cannot experience the full range of blessings God has for us here on earth.
So, for the first few months after I accepted Jesus Christ, I would bawl like a baby during worship at church. The first few times this happened, it FREAKED me out! I felt out of control. I couldn’t help it though! The songs would move me, and I was so aware of my own brokenness and so very aware of God’s grace… and the Holy Spirit would move me to tears. God is hilarious. He really does have an awesome sense of humor. The very thing I hated to do in public, I couldn’t help but do in the presence of God. For awhile after I was saved, I came to church with very little make up on (I knew I would just be crying it off anyway) and I sat by myself. I came in after everyone else was seated and took off like a shot after service was over. Worship had me feeling like an exposed nerve as God worked on my soul and softened my heart. And since I couldn’t help but cry (I really WANTED to worship him), I gave in to the tears.
Hey, guess what? Turns out tears are actually HEALING. Especially when you bring them before God.
I still don’t love crying in public, but I have learned to love when the Holy Spirit moves me to tears. It’s a form of surrender and it helps me to remain humble before the Lord. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m really in the spirit of worship unless the tears come. Weird. Uncomfortable. Vulnerable. Human. But, as it turns out, not lame. In fact, when I’m really upset or in a tizzy about something I’ll go to my room, journal, and give God all the tears I have in me. And he has always, always met me there. (And, also, it keeps me from eating my feelings.)
God wants us to bring our tears to him –- tears of joy, tears of sorrow and pain, tears of humility and brokenness, tears of disappointment and heartache, tears of panic and fear. Instead of suppressing them or numbing them out with food, alcohol, or any other substance, God wants us to bring those tears to him. Because only then do we let him in to heal and calm our spirit. Bringing our pain to the Lord makes us dependent on him. Crying out loud to the Lord is a form of worship.
The next time you’re overwhelmed with emotion, would you consider spending some time talking about it (or crying about it) with God?