Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Porchlight: Finding Our Way Home Series

*For Crying Out Loud*
Kelly shared on Monday what a natural stress reliever God has built into us: our unique ability to shed emotional tears. When we cry, our body chemistry is actually re-balanced. We not only feel better, we are better!

Yet, those crying jags can come at the worst times, so let's talk about this "new normal" today and help each other navigate and find our way through. They're unpredictable. We don't cry when we think we should; other times a crying spell can hit right out of the blue. I can think of many examples.

I'll never forget an older black man who got in an elevator with me in a parking garge near downtown Cleveland. I wasn't in the best of neighborhoods and I really didn't want anyone in there with me, but sometimes, what can you do? So I was nervous, but it turned into one of those moments when you see God's fingerprints. It must have been a glass elevator, because for small talk we were commenting on the Cleveland skyline. It was just a few weeks after 9/11, though, so we talked about what if our landmark--Terminal Tower was missing like New York's Twin Towers. We imagined a gaping hole where it should be. We grew silent, the elevator came to a stop, and then the man started weeping. We exited and he walked over to a concrete ledge of the walkway from the parking garage, and leaned on it, wiping his eyes and trying to collect himself. "I was in the Korean War," he told me. "My platoon. . . . we lost so many . . . "

I'll never forget Uncle Bill at Christmas time after Aunt Barbie passed from battling cancer. The aunts, uncles, cousins and Grandma Bowman all sat visiting in the living room as little kids ducked in and out, jazzed on sugar with missions of their own. You know how sometimes it's loneliest when you're in a crowd? Bill sat there with tears streaming down his face. We were all awkward and didn't know what to do. My 4 year-old Lisa was the smartest one in the room that day. She climbed into his lap and let him cry.

Recently a friend of mine lost her father. She's been working so hard to get through the grief and thought she'd gotten most of the tears out of her system. The 4th of July struck her with unexpected tears and she spent most of the holiday afraid to go out without breaking down. She didn't know where it all came from until she remembered that her grandma had died twelve years previously on 4th of July weekend.

A few times since we've been married Tom will hear a song on the radio or tv, and I'll catch him with tears in his eyes. He finds me in the same way, too, every now and then. We appreciate that we can put an arm around the other and let the tears pass. We don't make them stop. We know they'll stop when they've served their purpose.

Why do I share these sad stories with you?

Because they're beautiful. You see, God made us in His image, and the fact that we grieve is evidence of His image. We grieve because we love, and God is love. We remember because God remembers. We relive and revisit those most profound memories like the Korean War veteran and my friend whose Grandma had died, because God has set eternity in our hearts.

Our compassion has no timeframe; emotions and grief aren't linear with a beginning and an end. God created us in His image as eternal beings. Sure, we move on, grief becomes bearable, memories become more a matter of honoring. Yet every once in a while, out of the blue, the grief will come like a suprise rain shower, as if the sorrow was yesterday instead of months or years ago. And everytime that happens I learn something about myself and stand in greater awe of my God.

How about you? I think we can talk about this without getting stuck and wallowing in sorrow. Do you remember a time when tears caught you by surprise? What happened? And what would you do if it happened again? Let's start out with some light-hearted questions. Copy and paste your answers into the comment box when you click the comment line below.

1) Do you like Puff Plus with moisture creme or just regular Kleenex?
2) When you cry are you all dainty and dabbing at your eyes and nose? Or are you like me, sobbing and snarking and a real mess?
3) Where is the worst place you've had a crying jag?
  • Movie theatre
  • Wedding
  • Dropping kids off at school
  • Hallmark store
  • other:
4) Share a brief experience or a piece of advice about emotional meltdowns in public.

5) Share a Bible verse that has spoken to you about your grief.

Check back tomorrow for a list of movies that need a "WARNING: May Cause Crying" label on them.
(Flickr photo credit: by clevelandsurfkid)


  1. Ferree,
    Thank you so much for writing and sharing. I find myself tearing up a lot these days (as I am writing this comment *SMILE*) especially when I listen to Praise and Worship music. Often, when I sing I find myself sometimes overwhelmed with tears, music evokes in me such raw emotion that I cannot control. I despise this! A time I remember most vividly was Mother's Day 2008. Our Pastor asked me to sing "Because You Loved Me" for morning worship. I was fine until the last chorus and then I "saw" my Mother sitting in the front pew beaming as I sang;she was killed by a drunk driver 17 years earlier. I could not finish the song and was embarrassed. I had disappointed the Pastor and I am sure some in the congregation, not knowing my history, thought I was losing it! As you said in your blog, sometimes grief comes over you like a surprise rain the sorrow was yesterday. How true! The pastor had no knowledge of my Mother's death and later apologized for asking me to sing, but he also shared with me that God used me in that moment to let others know, tears are a part of life, both in joy and sorrow and that we should never be embarrassed or ashamed of them. Thanks for writing, I am always blessed by your message.

  2. One of my favorite books is Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire. Each chapter is about a "window" God uses in our lives. In the chapter, Windows of Tears, he begins with a quote by Fredrick Buechner:

    Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.

    They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.

  3. 1) Do you like Puff Plus with moisture creme or just regular Kleenex? I like the Kleenex ones with Aloe. Worth every penny, but I only indulge myself when I have a cold.

    2) When you cry are you all dainty and dabbing at your eyes and nose? Or are you like me, sobbing and snarking and a real mess? Crying is messy business. That's one of the reasons I hate it. If it were just the tears that would be fine, but the snot makes it extremely unpleasant! Yuck!!! I'm going to ask God why crying had to involve the sinuses when I get to Heaven.

    3) Where is the worst place you've had a crying jag? It was the Hallmark store just before Mothers Day. I had to pick out cards for birthdays, graduations, and Mothers Day. All the sentiments just tugged at my emotions which are so close to the surface these days.

    4) Share a brief experience or a piece of advice about emotional meltdowns in public. I haven't had a meltdown in public yet, but it's probably inevitable. I've been spending so much time at home since Michael passed away, but in September I have to go back to work.

    5) Share a Bible verse that has spoken to you about your grief. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 have been hugely comforting to me. My separation from Michael is temporary, and someday soon Christ will take his church home "in the twinkling of an eye". I've found so much hope in those words of the Apostle Paul's. :)

  4. P.S. I meant to say that your post was very touching and moved me to tears. It's good to be reminded that others feel things deeply and respond with tears, too.

  5. Thank you for these meaningful comments. It's so good to know we're not alone. LeAnne, I remember when your mom was killed and I have no doubt that your song on Mother's Day would certainly have had a great ministry to all who heard--and that she's so proud of the woman you've become. And Joannah--good question for heaven! I'm delighted to get to know you all, and to get to know "the real you" and all you'll be in Jesus. (Love that quote, Cindy!) Thanks again!

  6. Music was playing in the background of my life, almost constantly. My Dad loved Burl Ives, Peggy Lee, Kay Starr, and The Clancy Brothers. My Mom loved Dean Martin, Perry Como, Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck. For years after they passed away (separately, but both from cancer), anytime I heard any of those songs playing, I'd get all misty eyed, but I'd smile because it made me remember growing up with them and the music.
    Of course having been married almost 28 years, my husband and I had several songs that were "ours", and hearing them still evokes tears.
    I don't remember having a public meltdown...even at John's memorial service, we were too busy laughing at all the stories to cry. But when my friend Billy sang the last song, I was fine up until the time he hung up the microphone, looked at me and smiled. I didn't burst into tears, but they flowed.
    I actually don't mind crying at all! I don't remember exactly when I had my last "hard" cry, but I do remember thanking God out loud for it, for loving me and listening to it. I believe He truly hurts when He knows we hurt, and that is extremely comforting to me.

  7. Thank you so much, Feree, for this post and the earlier one about tears. Not a widow, but shedding tears this morning. When have I cried at unexpected times? Quite often, when what's coming out of my mouth suddenly brings my inner feelings to the forefront: I didn't know how much a thing was bothering me until I suddenly found myself crying about what I was saying. Counselor Harriet Braiker in her book "Getting Up When You're Feeling Down," calls this "emotional punctuation." Surprise tears like this get us in touch with our own hearts so we can face and deal with a problem or pain we may have been burying or denying.

    God bless your blog ministry,

  8. All your comments remind me Psalm 56:8, "Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Thy bottle; Are they not in Thy book?" (NASV). When I realize that the Creator of the universe also collects our tears in His bottle, and records them in His book--well, that's just amazing to me-- and all I can do it respond in worship and gratitude. Thank you all for bringing me to such a place today.


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