I’m not a big crier.
Unless you count that one time when I was about halfway through my first pregnancy and couldn’t sleep so I decided to stay up late and watch Beaches. You know, Bette Midler…Atlantic City…her best friend dies Beaches?
I found myself sitting in the dark in front of the TV that night with a roll of toilet paper next to me, most of it in torn-off clumps all around my fat lap, shocked and surprised by the body racking sobs that had overtaken me.
I’m not talking just a good cry here. I’m talking snot flowing, spit flying, teeth bared, I can’t breathe kinda sobs. I didn’t know what came over me! That had n-e-v-e-r happened before.
I was later informed by my bff, it’s what’s called…
…The Ugly Cry.
(For the record, there is a counterpart to The Ugly Cry called The Ugly Laugh. It looks much the same but there is usually table pounding involved.)
I don’t not-cry in attempts to be stoic, or strong, or studly, or because I hate crying. It’s none of those things. My heart isn’t hard and I’m touched deeply and moved by life’s tender moments and love to talk and write about them all openly and honestly. Without tears.
…unless it’s one of those moments where I just know I’m standing in the presence of God.
Now, I could write pages on that one little sentence alone couldn’t I? How do you know when you’re standing in the presence of God? As a child of God, isn’t He always standing with you? Or for that matter, how can God stand anywhere?
All good questions, and we could talk long about them theologically, but I think you know what I mean.
Those times when it’s been ages since I’ve made a point to dig into the Word and I open it, determined to read today, but scared that He’ll have given up on my wandering heart. And there, right there on the page where I last left off, are words that speak so tender to my heart it could only be that the Author wrote them just that morning while I waited for the coffee to brew.
Or the day when I didn’t even realize I was needing some extra guidance from Him, but pulling out of the driveway that dark morning to go meet a little horse I suspected belonged on our farm, I was shocked to flip on the radio right in the middle of an hour-long interview with a woman who spoke about horses and Jesus and the power of one to bring us closer to the other and how these animals have a way of bringing out the best in us and bringing us closer to Him.
Or when I’m at church and the praise team starts a song my heart knows from childhood and it’s almost like I’m standing in the old, light blue chapel with Granny Cakes again, her loud, off-key voice belting out the song after hearing just the first note while her large-print hymnbook rests, unopened, on the pew next to her. She sang so much louder in church than she did at her kitchen sink. I’d wish she had one of those soft, soprano sing songy voices like other grandmothers had and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized, she held the tune for the whole group of fifteen. She knew all the songs and she sang them as loud as she could and she loved the Lord she sang her heart out to and she didn’t care what she sounded like and now, as a grown woman I’d give all the money I had to stand next to her in church again and hear her beautiful voice sing.
Those are the moments I’m talking about.
Those are the moments when tears will come.
Because even though He’s always there, it’s in those moments you know He’s there. It’s in those moments you feel He’s there. And it brings forth tears straight up out of your heart that you didn’t even know were there.
So yesterday when I didn’t want to go to church…when I wanted to let the blankets keep me warm and keep me wrapped and keep me isolated from the movements of the morning and the people of the day…
…doesn’t a soul just get tired sometimes? And doesn’t the road just seem long sometimes? And even when it seems like it should be so easy, can’t it get hard sometimes?…
…I went anyway.
Because my little people need me to.
Because my husband said we were.
Because even tired in the body and weak in the spirit and weary with the weather and burdened with the everydayness…
He says get up.
He says even when you’re tired, especially when you’re tired, when you seek me with all your heart, you WILL find me.
He says I am with you. And I will strengthen you.
When we want to isolate isn’t that when we need to stand in the presence the most?
So awkward and bumbling, I go, walking through the movements, bringing what I can to Him, my kids, my smile, my out of sorts, my weak.
The songs can sometimes be the same, those poems up there on the screen and the organ starts up and the preacher starts singing and then I’m ten again and Granny Cakes is in my ear except it’s not her, it’s our dear Mrs. K who teaches the babies like my Granny Cakes did and who loves Jesus with all her heart like my Granny Cakes did and who sings loud for Him just like my Granny Cakes did.
That sweet voice in my ear makes the tears come and my knees buckle and here out of the blue comes The Ugly Cry because how could I have almost missed this today?
My husband brings Kleenex and my boy holds his Mama’s hand strong and the tears just trickle on down as I was brought Nearer, Nearer to the cross where Thou hast died.
I stood in the presence and all I could do was cry.
He was with me.
And in that moment my faith grew a little stronger.
The deacon, that man who is a little like me and has tears when He stands in the presence, well he talks about the goodness of the Lord and brings us righteous Good News.
And the friends that were in a car wreck two days ago, cracking ribs and crunching their big truck right up there on a stretch of road known for killing people, they walk in and people in their seats cry quiet happy…we have them with us still.
And the preacher talks about hard things that make him want to cry but when you speak in front of a crowd, you have to work hard not to because up there it could go real quick to The Ugly Cry.
And I might’ve yearned for my blankets to keep me safe, but this…
…this is what really covers me. I needed to be here. These people need me. And I need them.
Even when it seems like I just want to stay home and give up the familiar, routine, every-week-for-years-now Sunday morning steps, God gave these people to me and they are the ones that help me walk toward the joy when I’m having a hard time finding it on my own.
I’ll stand in His presence and they’ll help hold me up and I’ll help hold them up and together, tears and mess and mistakes and all…
My husband’s big strong arm. My boy’s getting-bigger strong hand. Mrs. K’s strong voice and stronger hugs. The strong laugh from across the room. The strong smiles of all those who might be a little like me today, feeling outside the circle, tired out with the time of year…the time of month…this time of life. When I’d rather stay home, let my blankets protect, let the familiar of my house keep my insecurities safe, they’ll come too and stand with me in His presence and I’ll stand with them and when we’re the weakest aren’t we really the strongest?
When we’re weak and weary and burdened and we come to Him, won’t He give us rest?
When I take His yoke and learn from Him, doesn’t He prove that He is gentle, and humble in heart?
Won’t I find rest for my soul?
He says it all right there in red in that eleventh chapter of Matthew’s book. He told us true and spoke it into the generations.
It’s easy. And it’s light.
When we stand together…
…no, sometimes we won’t want to…
When we stand with Him…
…yes, our knees might occasionally buckle …
While it might be hard…
…you’ll probably find yourself hit with The Ugly Cry once in a while…
Don’t we need to though?
Stand in the presence?
To sing. To pray. To learn. To lean. To grow.
To be weak.
Because when we’re weak…
…that’s when really…
“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. (Jesus)
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…
For when I am weak, then I am strong.”(Paul)
2 Corinthians 12:9-10