He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. ~ Psalm 40:3
Nobody told me this would feel like grief. That sending off my firstborn son - whom I know is in God’s good hands - to his school of choice, into a future that I happily anticipate– would leave me with this sloshing, splashing bucket of sorrow in my gut.
They say when you have a child, it’s like a piece of your heart is walking around outside of your body. Well, I’m still adjusting to my six-foot-tall chunk-of-heart living 300 miles away. I miss him with a visceral missing: his chatty dinner conversation, his young-man swagger, his broad shoulders and even broader grin, his penchant for knowing when I need a helping hand or a bear hug.
Don’t misunderstand: I’m also full to overflowing with Jesus’ peace and joy; I see God’s fingerprints all over these sorrows – and even when I don’t, I know He’s there. I know one day my “inner bucket” won’t feel so heavy. It’s just wondering how to deal with it in the now.
I mean, I have a life to live, a husband and son to love and enjoy, responsibilities calling my name, bathrooms crying out for Clorox. But grief still sucker-punches me in the most mundane moments: as I chop vegetables for dinner, in the middle of Zumba class, while driving to pick up Ben from co-op. I have to pause to catch my breath and blink back my tears.
And so I listen, once again, to Tim Keller’s “Praying Your Tears.” I retreat into a book or Words with Friends, drink coffee and stare at the mountains, waiting for this feeling to go away. It doesn’t.
So I budget a few hours with God on a Saturday afternoon, thinking that maybe I need to talk this through with Him; maybe He’s got a quick-fix Scripture for me, something to turn off this spigot (okay, firehose).“God, I know you’re there. Can you just point me to a passage, a promise, to be a strong wall against these pounding, tidal wave emotions? That’s all I need. I’ll be fine. Really.”
But God doesn’t give me a verse or a promise that afternoon. Instead, He makes this crystal clear: These emotions aren’t sinful, and they will take time to subside. Gulp.
It wasn’t until the next day, in worship, that God truly answered my plea - but not with a Bible-verse-band-aid to stop (or at least hide)my bleeding; no. He gave me a song. A song that I sang loudly, as what felt like half a bucket’s worth of tears streamed down my cheeks. Relieved to find tissues in my purse (for once), I didn’t leave the service to collect myself or check my face for mascara tiger-stripes. Those tears were worship and lament and praise and prayer, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of Him.
It was like God said: “I have given you Myself. You need Me every hour, every moment. You have no idea when your flash flood emotions are going to break loose, or when they are going to stay calm for the day. But no matter what, I am here. My BIG buckets of joy and peace and life in you remain constant, long after this sorrowful one is emptied. No matter what peaks and valleys your emotions travel today, I am fulfilling every promise I’ve made to you, in you. Even in this hour.”
I think about Jesus’ very human emotions. He was no stranger to grief and sorrow. A friend who mourned with his friends at their brother’s graveside. A Saviour who wept over people who would not receive His salvation. An intercessor who cried ashe prayed. I remember that the tender human heart of Jesus is to be my heart also.
So maybe the goal in this season is different than what I have been thinking this past month. Maybe the goal isn’t:
…To cry less. (Or, at least, less visibly.)
…To “get myself together.”
Maybe, instead, the goal is:
…To cry every tear in God’s presence.
…To more fully receive whatever He’s offering when those sucker-punches come.
…To open up my heart to receive other hurting hearts whom God sends my way.
…To let the tender compassion of Jesus be expressed through my life.
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. ~ Psalm 42:8
Listen to the song that God gave me here.