“There’s a time for everything… a time to mourn and a time to dance.”Ecclesiastes 3:4
We’d probably all agree it’s rude for you to tell a distraught person to stop crying and move on. Well, maybe it’d be OK if you’re a trusted insider. Maybe if you were God.
But, does God ever say, “stop crying?”
Actually, yes. At least it happened to me. It wasn’t a negative experience, but it has taken me the past two plus years to actually take it seriously and digest the invitation enough to act on it.
The message came most unexpectedly.
No, it wasn’t audible. That’s not how it works for me–I don’t believe I’ve ever heard God speak out loud. In fact, I can’t really prove to you that God speaks to me.
Over the years, however, I’ve come to recognize his voice as a still, small whisper to my soul, breathed in like a visiting thought that leaves a distinct impression on my consciousness.
Experience over time has led me to sit up and take note–to hold these impressions in my heart when they come along–and to watch how things play out.
This time, I was praying my favorite “crisis prayer,” a prayer I borrowed from an ancient song. It is a mix of pleading for help and expressing belief that God will save the day.
The composer writes with an “anguished heart,” and longs for wings like a dove to fly away and find rest.
One particular verse is the prayer that got me through my menopausal meltdown:
“Evening, morning, and noon I cry to God in distress and he hears my voice. He will deliver me unharmed from the battle waged against me.Psalms 55:17, 18
For over a year, I kept 3 alarms on my phone to remind me to cry to God evening, morning, and noon.
There were times I collapsed face down on the bed, like an inanimate chalk outline, resurrecting just enough emotional energy to repeat these lines and cling to the whisper of hope that the battle wouldn’t destroy me (or my relationships).
Since then, I had been raising that prayer whenever I felt overwhelmed, whenever my brain got lost in the fog, and whenever I despaired that I would ever arrive (whatever that means).
I applied this “collapse and cry out” prayer to specifics like, wanting to write, but endlessly putting it off, wanting to blog, but having an internal traffic jam with all things tech, and so on.
“God, I want to write. I know I’m called to write. But I just cannot make myself do it. I’m dumping this on you. Thanks for doing something about it.”
It gave me relief… which is a good thing when you are exhausted and don’t have the energy to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps (and you’ve heard that’s the way it’s supposed to roll).
If that’s where you are, please know that this is a legitimate place to be. Also know that you won’t be there forever.
Just keep asking.
And get some rest.
And stay open for the next message…
Two years after we returned to the U.S., I had the chance to revisit Thailand (beloved home for five years and home to my menopause meltdown). I was reminded of all the good–and all the struggle.
One of my preshies was now on the verge of college with the other close behind. The door of my future life was creaking open while the bittersweet realization of time rushing by flooded me with regret and the angst of “what next?” (and am I up to it?).
Overwhelm threatened and I found my way to that familiar prayer and, wouldn’t you know it, I got more than comfort.
I got an answer.
The conversation inside went something like this:
It’s time for a new text.
“What?!” I instinctively pulled that crying prayer closer to my heart. “No way! That is my lifeline!”
It’s time to move on. Zephania.
“You mean that text about you singing over me with joy? That’s a nice one. I’ve always liked it. I mean, it’s kind of hard to take it to heart when I care so much about everyone else singing over me with joy (and approval), but it’s a good one and I really would like to believe it–in my heart of hearts.”
So, I opened my phone to Bible App, clicked read, clicked Zephania and looked for the number “4.” Oh–only three chapters in that little book. So, I clicked “3” and started reading.
Starting in verse 14, things became very personal–speaking directly at me in that whispering voice:
“Sing, daughter… Shout… be glad and rejoice with your whole heart…!”
Sing? do not feel like singing. I don’t even feel like listening to singing.
Shout? No. I do not feel like my people just won their soccer game. Nope. Not in me to shout right now.
Be glad with my whole heart? I am thankful for a million things (literally)–but I’m just not glad in my whole heart. Sorry. Just being honest here.
To be fair, I could see how singing and shouting (with joy) and being glad in my heart, could change everything. But, can a person just decide to do that?
I read on:
“Because the Lord has taken away your judgement, he has turned back your enemies. He is with you, you don’t need to fear disaster anymore.”
Ahhh. The why for all that happy stuff.
It felt like an invitation to leave the remorse-regret rut once and for all. Let go of the judgement and cringing and worry about the consequences and trust that it’s going to get better… let go of the voices (projected or not) of judgment.
If I believed that, nothing could stop me. I’d sing, shout, and be very, very glad. Wouldn’t that be nice?
(Note: It’s always helpful to know something about the context of what you are reading–the original intent. Here, the prophet is passing on a message of hope and promise to people devastated by the consequences of very bad choices and behavior–corruption, human sacrifice, etc.)
“It does not matter if you invited these enemies in, if you are lying in a bed of your own making. Be glad! Because I’ve reversed your judgement and I’m clearing away your enemies.”
I read on:
“It will be said to you, don’t be afraid, don’t let your hands hang limp.”
Uh… are you talking about how I just kind of cave when the overwhelm wave rolls in?
Yes. You can chose something different from “crying out” and collapsing. The time has come to identify as forgiven, free from judgement, and start acting with courage, instead of sliding into fear paralysis (which is a very close cousin to perfection paralysis).
This idea was like a seed that put down a root. However, as you’ll see, it took a long time to show anything for it. I read on:
“Your God is where you are, he’s a mighty warrior who saves. He will delight in you with gladness.”
One version says “in your midst.” I liked that concept. Now I love it–and am comforted by it.
God is not only for me, he’s for my people as well. He’s for all and is at work in the world around me. And He fights for what is good and right.
“He will be quiet in his love.”
There are different ways to translate this verse from the original Hebrew. I The Amplified Bible spells it out in a most comforting way:
God makes “no mention of your past sins.”
Thank you. Perhaps I should let those go also?
“He will delight over you with singing.”
This is the famous verse that so people like to quote. Delightfully, it takes us right back to the instruction to “Sing!”
God has so much whole-hearted joy and delight with us, he himself is singing–he invites us to join in the song.
What on earth would keep a person from leaving the anxiety of past failures to enter a judgement free zone where you can finally act in confidence and joy, knowing you are OK in your own skin and you can get to work?
I’m not sure–but that was me for almost two years after the invitation to stop crying.
There were times, long after my beloved was fast asleep, where I would lie in bed and ruminate (chew on those thought like a cow grinding away at a mouthful of slimy grass) about everything I’d done and hadn’t done as a mom.
The slide into dark sadness was almost physical–as was the blindness to the reality of all the possibility and time still left.
Then the whisper would come… “Sing…”
Sing?! It felt like someone was asking me to pick up a 100 pound backpack and follow them up the trail to the next viewpoint.
But I started thinking about it. Because what’s really happening is that someone is inviting me to drop that 100 pound pack and enjoy the trail.
Little by little I got used to those words, “sing, shout, be glad.”
Towards the end of 2020, I memorized the whole passage and I started repeating it every morning, before getting out of bed.
Recently, I even manage to say “sing” under my breath in a situation where I normally would’ve been seesawing between defensive reaction or emotional hibernation.
It is getting easier find refuge in this new place. And I’m starting to feel the joy. Maybe it just takes time for our hearts to catch on–to transfer the head belief to our deep down inside.
You want to sing, shout, and bring your whole, glad heart into 2021 with me? Or at least experiment with the idea?
It’s not magic, and it doesn’t mean there won’t be any sad moments to cry through (crying is good).
It does mean living from a new, free, place a joy. It means picking up our hands and getting things done.
Sound too hard? Take your time. Give the idea a little space to grow. And remember:
It’s never to late and the best is yet to be.
Here’s to our NEW Year,