Crying as a Spiritual Practice
Recently Christine Sine at Godspace asked the question “What is a Spiritual Practice?” This and another post “Reimagining our Spiritual Practices” lead to her inviting people to join her in talking and writing about Spiritual practices and ways that we connect with God in everyday life. I was intrigued by the thoughts she shared and have been thinking about what are ways that I personally sense God’s presence and engage in a spiritual practice?
I think I grew up thinking that the only real way to connect with God and the only real spiritual practices where reading your Bible and praying, maybe I would have also considered going to church (and listening to a sermon) and Bible study with other believers to be spiritual practices as well, but that was pretty much the extent of it. As I got a little older my repertoire of spiritual practices expanded just a little to include some other classic standards like solitude/silence and fasting. But, I think deep down I knew that I also encountered and experienced God in numerous other ways that didn’t fit into the box of traditional spiritual practices. And it wasn’t until I got even a bit older that I felt free enough to allow myself to engage in spiritual activities and spiritual practices that didn’t fit the normal model I’d grown up with.
Here’s how Christine Sine defines Spiritual practices for her: “for me a spiritual practice is any routine I perform on a regular basis that connects me more intimately with God and God’s purposes.”
I like that. It got me thinking about what things in my regular, everyday kind of life connect me more intimately with God and God’s purposes. There are quite a few things that have come to mind and maybe I’ll write about some of the other one’s in the weeks to come, but for today I want to talk about crying.
For me crying is a spiritual practice, a spiritual experience that changes me and takes me closer to the heart of my Father. Allow me to explain and expand a little… To start with, understand that I’m not really the type who cries at the drop of a hat. You have to be a pretty close friend to have seen me cry as I usually only cry around people I feel really comfortable with. But, I do cry fairly regularly and when I cry I really cry. It usually starts with some little trigger and then grows until I’m crying about everything that I possibly could cry about.
But, there’s something that almost always happens at some point during my crying which I’m not sure is normal or not, maybe it shows my own weakness of faith, but almost always at some point my crying escalates and get’s turned on God. Suddenly it isn’t just about whatever it is I’m crying about, suddenly it’s about me and God and all my insecurities in my relationship with God. Suddenly, all of my doubt, distrust and fear, and all of my anger and accusations come out to play. Suddenly I’m face to face with all my ugliness, all the ugly deep thoughts and feelings I have towards God. Suddenly my sense of God’s sovereignty comes into play and it’s all His fault. Sometimes this moment leads to more tears and sadness, sometimes it leads to guilt and my disappointment in myself for my own distrust of God (which also leads to more tears), sometimes it leads to anger and outright yelling at God (again more tears).
The answer to these moments is always silence. In these moments God has never once defended himself. He hasn’t defended himself through someone else who was with me, or through bringing to mind scripture that I know, or in any other way. It’s always silence. But, I can feel him there, sometimes it’s so heavy that I feel like he’s standing right in front of me just silently looking at me, absorbing all of my accusations and confusion and doubt and just waiting.
But, just as surely as my crying sessions lead to that moment they also lead to another moment. Eventually I get to a place where I’ve cried it all out, where there is no fight left in me. I eventually get to a place where the sadness and anger and fear have run their course and I’m left feeling completely empty and vulnerable. My tantrum has run its course. My tears have done their job and have cleansed out of me all that ugliness and I sit there with it all exposed before me and God. There isn’t anywhere to hide anymore. It’s in this moment that God really comes close. Again he doesn’t answer my questions, ease my fears, or defend against my accusations. He just comes close and holds me in all my vulnerability. And in that moment I feel peace.
That is why crying is a spiritual practice for me. We all need moments like that. Moments that expose our ugliness. Moments that break down our defenses and leave us vulnerable. Moments that cleanse us and bring us to a new place of surrender to a God that we don’t understand. For me those moments happen when I really let myself fall apart and cry.
Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany