Learning to cry

Good friends and I at our Sterling "going away" party--lots of tears--and laughter--that night

Two nights ago, as I was putting Maddie to bed, she banged her heel so hard on the bed post that she began to cry. After I held her and she settled, she asked me, “Mommy, why do tears come out of our eyes?”

I launched into an explanation of tear ducts, but she stopped me. “No, I mean, if we’ve hurt our foot or arm, why don’t they cry? Why do the tears come out of our eyes?”

I thought for a moment and then told her, “I wonder if God put tears in our eyes—a part of our body we can’t hide from each other—because He wants us to know when others are sad or hurt? If they came out of our foot or hand, we could hide that more easily. People try to hide their tears from others, but maybe that’s not what God wants. Maybe he wants us to see others’ tears and help them, to reach out to them in their pain or sadness.”

We humans do a lot of this kind of pretending. I read a Proverb recently that showed me that God is very aware of this. The rich man pretends he has nothing, it says, and the poor man lives as if he has more than he really does, trying to impress others. God obviously doesn’t like this pretense. Be honest, He says, over and over. Stop pretending that you’re “okay,” that you don’t have very deep needs. Stop acting as if you don’t need Me, as if you don’t need other people.

I’ve realized I do a lot of pretending. I hide any hurt and need behind stoicism (“Yep, doing okay”) or bravado, wearing my busy-ness like a badge of honor. I always want to be the strong one rather than the weak, the one who helps others rather than the one who is helped. The result is pride and a really nasty case of “mommy martyrdom” (a phrase Dave coined for the times when I “serve” while nursing a secret bitterness). After a while, I begin to believe my play-acting. “Look at the load you can handle,” I tell myself. “Look at all the people who lean on you.”

God’s been opening my eyes to some of the ugly outcomes of this attitude, and Maddie’s question helped me to see it even more clearly. When some part of my soul hurts or is in great need, why do I hide that from those who love me? I want to learn to express need, to share hurts…to be human.

If I don’t, I can’s experience true fellowship, which only works, truly, when the two seeking it are willing to be honest and real with each other, to acknowledge their own great needs and then seek, together, THE Answer to them.

I want to learn to “cry” in front of others.

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