Monday, January 16, 2012

On crying

I'm not one of those women who say they "never cry." I am also not one who gushes at commercials. I confess I've been known to tear up at movie trailers involving kids who become BFF's with large ocean animals. But who doesn't?

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.
Ezekiel 11:19

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.



  1. I absolutely loved reading this post! I'm right there with you when it comes to masking my emotions, in fear of embarrassment, etc. What a lovely reminder that it's okay to show emotions. It resembles love, heart. It resembles our Father.

  2. i completely understand this entire post (minus the kids, of course). i have always been ashamed to cry in public. i still struggle with it to this day. even when i know i'm in a safe place and no one will judge me, i hold it in as much as i can.

    thank you for sharing this. it's amazing.

    oh and it was SO AWESOME running into you today!!

  3. Wow, thank you so much for this! It really just spoke to my heart. You have no idea how much I needed to read it. Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. I just talked about this in my kids church class(ages 4-6) last week. I was teaching on the raising of Lazarus from the dead and was telling the kids how the Bible says Jesus wept over the death of his friend. Then I told them that its OK to cry, to show emotion(within reason, of course...we dont want to be ruled by them) because God put those emotions inside of us for a reason when he created us.
    It was interesting to see how the boys reacted to that. Many of them are unchurched and unloved and I can only imagine what their home lives are like. Hopefully they'll remember what we share with them:)
    I miss you, friend & hope your week goes well.

  5. I love how you have these sweet moments with the Lord. It is so encouraging and neat to read about those intimate moments. I love having those too. This pregnancy has done a number on my emotions with stuff and I feel like I've had to draw near to the Lord all day. Thanks for sharing, Leslie girl.

  6. I can identify with this so much, I just recently had a breakdown and then a good hard cry in front of some of my dearest friends. Initially I felt silly, but the tears would not stop. And then they turned to those gasping for breath sobs. You know the ones. And my dear friends simply surrounded me and prayed for me until I was all cried out. I think there was a spiritual breaking in the process of crying, and in those moments God was able to come in and begin healing and restoring some places in my life that needed it. I would say that it was holy ground for sure.

    So many times we are afraid to show those emotions, to simply be human and vulnerable. But those times have a way of knitting us together with those around us, if we let them. It gives them an opportunity to join with us and bear our burdens. It truly is a wonderful and lovely thing.

  7. I am so so glad I found your blog a couple of weeks ago. Each post I have read has left me feeling so inspired and like you have said exactly what I needed to hear that day. I wish that I could go for coffee with you and just talk, you seem like an amazing woman of God. Blessings on you!

  8. Such an inspiring post! I can relate to it so much! I recently stumbled onto your blog and have loved getting to explore around it. I'm looking forward to reading more =D

  9. leslie! again..the spirit working in me through you. so first, thank you for your obedience to him.

    well, i suppose i've looked a lot like jesus lately- a lot of crying a lot.
    yet on the other hand, the liar mocking me for being so vulnerable in the past so i find myself withdrawing from emotion.

    i hadn't considered i need to not let my heart be hardened (which is what i'm allowing). i'm tired of being weak, tired of being too much, BUT more than that i'm tired of being non-responsive. think my heart needs a defibrillator. this post made me recognize that. going to take it to God now.

    and you must think i am such a mess! God has been using his spirit working through you to mess me up (that is a good thing).

  10. lovely and so perfect.
    i am a cryer.
    i cry a lot.
    you have heard me.
    and i am always apologizing for it.
    but it's out of my control in every way.
    thank you for putting words to my feelings today.

    i did get your email but i can't find it.....
    can you re send it to me?
    thanks leslie!!

  11. oh! I love this.
    I'm a total cryer...
    my heart feels most everything and I have to trust that God made me that way....
    makes me feel weak when I'm around seemingly strong people, but for the most part, I love that God made me this way....

  12. Amen, sister, is all I can say.

  13. Such a good post. I so want to be moved be what moves our Lord. Too often I am too sensitive and cry about dumb things... and other times I put a wall up.

  14. Sometimes a good cry just feels so good. I haven't cried hard in a long time. Little tears here and there over sentimental things. Maybe I should cry more...a good stress reliever :)

  15. Wow. This speaks volumes to me. I use to be a cryer and over the years have stopped. I'm in the process of soul searching for the reasons that it, some of them you listed above. Thank you for sharing this.

  16. Thank you so much for this post! I have thought about this a lot lately because I have such strong emotions sometimes, like when I think about how much I love my husband and Jesus, or when someone says something really horrible to their child in public, and yet, I hold in the tears for no good reason at all. I cherish those who can cry without inhibition when it really matters. I'm learning to do the same, and your post has gotten me further to that place. Thank you.

  17. I found your blog today through another blog, you have no idea how much this blessed me. Thank you for allowing the Lord to speak through you.

  18. I cry ALL THE TIME. Really, I am constantly telling people that I'm really okay, don't worry... I cry... Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  19. how impossibly beautiful. thank you. what a LOVELY post!
    thank you thank you thank you!

  20. Beautiful. I feel shame about my tears often, but this post gave me such a sense of freedom. Thanks for sharing! xoxo

  21. gosh... can you believe i'm now crying after reading this post?!
    i'm like you... i'm ok with crying, really i am, but i just don't do it as often as i should.
    i do bottle it up inside.
    i try to be the strong one.
    i need to let it out.
    thanks for the encouragement.
    you're always so spot on!

  22. you are really on a roll lately little friend.
    this was lovely.