Dad used to say, and I’m guessing he’d heard it in his growing up years, that there wasn’t any use crying over spilt milk. Some of Dad’s quippy phrases bugged me. This was one.
I knew and understood the point: whatever happened is over with, and it can’t be undone. Prone to emotional expression as I was, crying over something spilled or broken seemed a logical, natural response. I never appreciated being told that crying was useless. Dad, I’m guessing again, was likely taught early on that crying was wasted time and didn’t help a damn thing. Bless Dad. Bless a lot of us who haven’t felt free to shed tears, even about overturned beverages.
The world is full of stunning beauty and wonder beyond the words we know to capture it. Likewise, there’s a great deal that is shattered, that shatters us.
The unanswered prayer, long-prayed, offered on repeat. We beg like the persistent widow in the Gospel narratives, pleading with a judge-shaped god.
Did God whisper not yet? Or no, dear one? Or wait?
What then is to share at the praise celebration? What glowing report do we then give when it’s our turn? How do we express that the illness won’t relent, that the surgery was unsuccessful, that the dementia is getting worse?
Do we sit at a table where friends bid us to share that a marriage hangs on by thin threads, that a child runs wild like the prodigal and hasn’t decided to return home? Can we open our mouths to say that we’re out of dams to give, that our faith is teetering on the edge because it’s not working like the saints testified that it would?
What if not a single soul received our evangelistic invitation? How do we celebrate that the server to whom I offered encouragement flipped me off, me and my Jesus?
How do we explain that the night terrors badger like it’s their mission from the Dark Lord? That, no matter what proactive steps are in place, a nagging depression hovers like Ohio Valley clouds?
Is there opportunity, freedom even, to acknowledge that it doesn’t seem fair for a town to celebrate how they were spared the storm when the next town over was flattened? Can we share our strange anger that he recovered from addiction by the grace of God and she did not?
Is there a space for us, in our triumphant, post-Resurrection lives to say, I don’t have it within me to rally a praise-God today?
Is there a room in the household of faith for our deep ache, for the audible lament of people groups? Will our pride take a back seat long enough for us to admit we added to a struggle, that we have been complicit in the pain? Can we, for the love of what is good and holy, grasp hands and be with each other while the grief spills out in cries and cusses and numbness?
I confess, in my penchant for fixing and finding some relief and a solution, I have cut others off in their instinctual urges to wail and mourn. I don’t know where I learned it, but it was woven into me somehow.
In our productive American culture, perhaps. Grief is not time-wise. Lament builds no tangible, consumable result for purchase or sale.
In our Christian culture, maybe. A too-long depression, sadness, sickness robs Jesus of the victory. It seems strong faith is not often allowed to exist alongside a malady of flesh or mind or spirit.
Maybe from Dad and his quick reach for WD-40 to remedy most ails. Duct tape and platitudes don’t mend everything, at least not for long.
I learned it—the fixing, the solutions. Those need to come. Of course, they do; they must have their time. But misplaced, rushed into before seeing and hearing and giving dignity to, wielded without compassion and empathy—in this way, they are unkind.
Forgive me, Lord.
A better way has come by way of wounds, of leaning into the mystery of wordless prayers. It has come by way of wandering in the desert, where Christ met me outside and away from certitude.
To be surrounded and held by others who wiped my tears and anointed my bruises, this brought as much healing to me as any traditional or non-traditional medicine. God, unfathomable reality, has seen fit to administer cures to the gouged places in my soul through the persistent presence of fellow weepers and wailers. With their presence, they embodied Christ, grace, mercy, shalom.
My dad did learn to cry over the unfixables, over spilled and broken things. I don’t know for sure, but I think a lifetime of bucking up wears on a soul; at some point, the muscles to keep it tethered in and close, they give out. Like a lot of folks, he probably wept in private more than I knew.
There ain’t no shame in personal or corporate lamentations. I wonder what kind of healing might come to us if we could first do some crying over what spilled, over what fell and crashed? And then, and then let the hope return as it knows to do?