The thing is that all these things, all these people pulling at me, all these responsibilities, stresses, life-changing, life-slowing-down, life-ending, life-and-death decisions I'm living with these days have begun to weigh on me. I noticed that last week at Whidbey. One of our friends would ask a fairly innocuous question and before an answer could even be formed by Beve or me, tears had sprung from my eyes. I'm talking tears about things I haven't cried about in almost thirty years. Situations (like a bad job experience--a rather hellish one, even) I've made my peace with and thought I had no residual bitterness about made my voice tremble and tears flow. And then there were the things I actually am fairly emotional about--like my father-in-law and his precarious health, and my mother and the close of her life--and I was like a gusher, I mean a full-on, Old Faithful geyser. And all of these tears cursing down my cheeks made me more than a little annoyed because I'm not, by nature, a crier. In fact, I've always prided myself in how strong I am.
But why the heck is the ability NOT to cry something to be proud about? What's so wrong with crying when there are things to cry about? When emotion--strong, deep, crying-out-to-God emotion--is the natural reaction to a serious situation, why do I try so hard to stem those cries? Why don't I simply let 'em rip, to do the good they're meant to do?
There is such strong Biblical precedence for crying. For allowing tears and sobs and wails to do a job until those tears are finished. Think of all the times the Psalmist cries out, with loud impassioned cries. No dignity, no stoic forbearance. Just cries naked and natural to the One who made him just that way--naked and natural. "In my distress I called to the Lord: I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cries came before Him into His ears." Psalm 18: 6 says.
I've been trying so hard to be faithful in the midst of an increasingly pressurized life that something has had to burst. My tears have been more honest than I have been, it hit me today. A life where all kinds of things are coming at us from every direction all the time. And I'm working so hard to stay afloat, to stay faithful and trusting of God, that I've forgotten to simply be with Him. To be whatever it is I really am. Do I actually think He can't take it if I let down for a moment? If I actually tell Him that it's too much? Too many deaths staring us in the face, too many illnesses, depressions, or whatever? If I tell Him I can't handle it and feel overwhelmed, what is He going to do, say, 'Alrighty then, you're on your own!? When I carry that thinking to its conclusion, I can tell how ridiculous it really is, but the thing is, I've been raised to be faithful. I've grown up in the faith to trust and trust and trust some more. And when hard things come, still go on believing in faith that He is in it, around it, will not allow anything to happen that I can't handle with Him.
The thing is...I've been so busy saying I'm faithful I haven't actually been living it out. That is to say, I haven't allowed the natural cycle of lament to work itself out in my struggle. If I look at the Psalmists' cries to God as a model of living in a pressure cooker, what I see is brutal honesty, even to to point of, 'how dare you do this to me?', followed by a lull in which the psalmist remembers who God is, then finishes up by surrendering in complete and lavish adoration. Read Psalm 18 and see what I mean. It's not based on a single thing that the pray-er does for himself. No picking himself up by his boot straps, even in faith. No, it's far more basic:
I'm in trouble. Do you hear me? I need you. But I know who you are. You have proved yourself-- throughout history and throughout my life. Hallelujah, you are God. You are God...and I am not. Hallelujah. Whatever is to be done in this situation must be done by YOU. Will be done by You. Hallelujah.
Yes, that's it...You are God and if only one of us has this mess of a life in control, it has to be You, because it sure isn't me. So I'm going to stop acting like I am--in control or anything else. You are God and I am not.
Now excuse me, I've got a bit (or maybe a whole lot) of crying to do!