Last year was a busy, noisy year in which I found myself avoiding the quiet alone times. They were painful to me and like a child I wanted to avoid anything that was uncomfortable and messy and inconvenient. I wanted to be the strong, independent one, not the needy, weepy one. Even my so-called quiet times were filled with reading or prayers or my own thoughts crashing through, because the silence was too raw, too revealing. But issues that need to be dealt with in silence will only be put off for so long.
Grief (and figuring out who you are in the wake of it) can be suppressed for a season, but one season is soon replaced with another, and so, while I was putting on a brave face and getting on with my life, with occasional embarrassing moments when tears sprang to the eyes unbidden to be blinked back or quickly wiped away, dismissed like an unwelcome visitor, something was waiting for me in the silence. Or perhaps I should say ‘Someone’.
The need for silent times grew under the surface, festering there, until it all came to a head last Wednesday. I had been emotionally shaky all day, on my first go at celebrating my mother’s birthday with the two of us separated by the chasm that exists between heaven and earth, but still I kept plugging along. My step-father and I shared lunch and our common grief. When both of us fell silent, unable to talk for fear of causing an untoward scene in the midst of a crowded restaurant, I found the silence to be painful and awkward, but found safety there as well. The day went along bathed in sadness and too many memories. I went back to hiding from the silence as the events surrounding my mother’s passing played back like a movie scene I didn’t want to see, but couldn’t close my eyes to avoid. So I kept busy, so I wouldn’t have to think about it, as if ignoring it would make it go away.
That night at church, all my facades of “handling it” were stripped away. I stepped up onto the choir risers and as we began the warm-up, I melted down. I was engulfed by such an overwhelming sense of loss and how much the church meant to her and how blessed I was in spite of all that had happened, that I began to weep and couldn’t stop. I had to exit the choir and flee from people, but there was no place to go in the midst of our busy church. Fortunately, I was surrounded by many of those who know and love me best who, each in turn, took me in their arms and told me to go ahead and cry if I needed to and that it would get better. So I did. And in that time when I couldn’t speak and could only nod and weep, I was ministered to. Another step in my journey from brokenness to wholeness was conquered.
Meanwhile, those who don’t know me well or my story, walked around us with curious stares or awkward glances. We don’t much like it when life is messy and unpredictable. It makes us uncomfortable because we don’t know how to fix it. I understand, because I was there with them a year ago. The sight of someone overcome with tears of grief unnerved me and I felt unsure how to help. This has become easier for me since being inducted into this company-of-the-wounded that I never asked or desired to join.
The tears continued, unwanted, through the warm-up and before-church fellowship time and well into the singing. Going back onto the platform was out of the question, so I sat in my seat, surrounded by my church family. By the time the singing was over, I was different, better, stronger. I had come to the end of myself, endured the humiliation of weeping in public, and found that it’s okay to be frail, or weak, or, even, gasp, human. I found that my own self-reliance will always fail me but God never will. He is always there to catch me when I fall, comfort me when I weep and love me when I feel most desolate. I don’t have to ‘be strong” for everyone else, because God is there and does the job so much better than I do.
As I continue on this journey, I am learning to welcome the silence, even when it’s accompanied by tears. Hope and life are renewed there in the stillness of His Presence and I can go on.