Otherwise, I'd say I'm an average female crier. Romantic movies. Awesome parenting moments. Heartache. Weddings. Grief over my own mistakes. I cry at all that stuff. But what I observed in my own self recently was something that surprised me. For as much as I support self-expression, I don't always feel the freedom to cry. I still will, however (like when I can't help it), which means I often have shame or some sort of embarrassment attached to my tears.
It's true. Sad, but true. I am often in a situation where I need to cry, to let that emotion out, but also want to hide it. Sometimes it's from my kids, sometimes it's from my husband, sometimes it's from my peers at school when I step out of the car at pick up. Now, I'm not blubbering all the time. It's not often. What is it though, that makes me feel so inhibited?
Well, let me take a shot at it.
Something tells me crying means crumbling. "Pull yourself together!"
Something tells me crying should be hidden from children (um...they are people who cry all the time, so what sense does that make? )
Something echoes in my head, "Why do you have to be so emotional?"
Something whispers to my heart, "You are just too much."
I'm challenged to wonder, is this really what God intended for me to feel and think? Isn't He the one who made my body to burst forth in tears when my heart can't contain its emotion? Did Jesus feel this barrage of shame all the times He cried (which were many)? I seriously doubt it.
The other night, I was driving in the car alone. I heard something on the radio that triggered something hurting in me, and I just started crying. Weeping. I wasn't going to meet up with anyone. I had no reason on earth to feel embarrassed or ashamed to let out my emotion. And there it came, this mist-like negativity which made me feel messy and ugly.
And then the strangest thing happened. While I was crying, I had this visual in my head of Jesus smiling at me - no, He was gently laughing - not at me, but in undeniable endearment. The way I can't keep a straight face when my son throws himself on the ground in dramatics. (Sometimes I think his emotional self-expression is completely adorable.) And Jesus was looking at me like that, so lovingly. It distracted me long enough to ask an exasperated "What??" in my heart. The reply was, " Aww, go ahead and cry, my daughter. It's okay. You are so beautiful when you cry. Because it is then that your heart looks like mine."
Which made me cry harder. But this time in freedom.
Of course! How could I forget that He who holds the stars in place also fashioned for me a heart of flesh, tender and delicate. He entrusted me with powerful emotions to wield and to learn from.
And to feel.
Do you know, friends, that Jesus designed your heart to feel? Freely? We are not permitted to act on all those feelings in whatever way we choose. But we are permitted - expected - and encouraged to feel our feelings, not hide from them. Not let them shame us into an emotional corner. That night, I was hurting. My heart of flesh needed to say so. And the Lord reminded me that He too has a soft heart. He too feels heartache and grief, and I'm sure some at my own hand.
I was reminded of this verse - frankly, a verse that scares me:
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
Perhaps my biggest fear is developing a heart of stone. Oh, you know exactly what that looks like. So do I. It is a scary place to go, to feel the first bits of numbness creep in. It's easy to justify, in the name of "self-protection." I get it. I do. And it terrifies me when I find myself toeing that line. So I want to believe Jesus when He says my crying is lovely. I will eagerly throw off any shame entangled with my emotions simply because I want so badly to preserve a heart of flesh. Maintaining a tender heart is risky business in a broken world, and is no small task before God either. But God forbid I succumb to fear and let my heart grow hard.
I learned this week that my heart deserves my respect. I shouldn't extinguish or ignore my emotion and my pain. I can't let it rule me either. But I can offer my true emotions to God and let Him in. I can feel my sadness without being afraid of it, and ask Him to get to work on healing me. And most importantly, I learned that when I bear a heart of flesh, I resemble my Father most.
Now there's a reason to have a good cry.