Jesus was a man of sorrows & acquainted with grief. If I had to name an all time favourite bible verse, the one I return to again & again, the one that most deeply touches my heart it would be simply this: Jesus wept. It says everything, doesn't it?
We are all acquainted with grief. Life can be hard. Things happen. We partake of sorrow. We have wept into our pillows at night like Job & railed at heaven. If you are like me you've ranted rabidly at God so one of the things that I have struggled with in my prayer life is less grief than the tears of the spirit ~ & you know, no~one talks about it though I believe the Eastern Orthodox has some tradition & understanding of what happens.
Um, yeah. I can hear you. What is she on about this time? Ladies, if you have experienced this please speak up because I can assure you nothing makes me feel more like a complete & utter dill than to be quietly sitting in Meeting meditating on God & to suddenly have tears streaming down my face for no discernible reason! Only one thing is worse: holy laughter. Makes you seem quite mad but I can assure you that whatever it looks like I am completely sane!
I have spoken here & there on prayer, on entering into the silence, on entering into the very presence of God, on listening in prayer. What I have avoided are the less tangible, more uncertain aspects that I don't quite understand. The tears of the spirit fall into this category.
Now I know most of you aren't Quakers but I will assume the Spirit isn't choosy & sometimes operates the same way regardless of denominational differences. For me tears happen so regularly I am accustomed to experiencing them as part of my *centering*. Entering the silence, *centering* can sometimes be very difficult. Other times it happens with relative ease. Then there are the times when it is as though the spirit overshadows me & tears well up in a great gush & a deep sadness engulfs me.
It is true I am the emotional sort. I laugh & cry with embarrassing ease. For a long time I thought it was just me being me ~ embarrassing as that may be. Then I realised I never cry in just this way & I never cry like this unless I am in prayer. Lightbulb moment! If it's not me then what is going on here?
I have had some thoughts on the matter. Just one or two, you know. Firstly Scripture tells us that it is given to us to partake in Christ's sufferings. I can be very literal. I've found God isn't. Christ suffers for the world still: for it's sin; for it's injustice; for it's violence & for it's poverty of spirit. Christ suffers for mankind made in the image of God distorted. Scripture tells us that our hearts of stone will be replaced with hearts of flesh. Lastly we are told that when we don't know how to pray the Holy Spirit will pray on our behalf with deep groanings.
What is going on? When I shut up & stop telling God, when I start asking how I should pray & what it is that God would have me petition Him about, the Lord can give me His mind, His heart, His spirit & that changes something in me. It empties me of ME, ME, ME. Trust me, this is a good thing! Only then can the Spirit minister as He wishes. Only then can Christ share His grief. It can be devastating. Shattering. What possible purpose can it serve?
Well, I've thought about that too. I can be very hard, very selfish. I think, if we are honest, that is true of most of us at least some of the time. When we are like that we can't effectively be Christ's servant hands & feet, we can't be His agents of love to a broken & damaged world. Tears humble us. They break us. They gentle us & make us vulnerable. When we are humble & broken & gentle Christ can work through us. His compassion for His world invades our very souls & we see it with His eyes rather than eyes grown weary of the struggle to reach the unreachable, teach the unteachable, minister to those who resent us.
Psalms says God collects our tears in a bottle. This refers to the ancient practise of lachrymotories ~ plain earthenware vessels used to collect tears at funerals & buried with the corpse. A little over the top even in the ancient world. Tacitus expressly forbade the practise for his burial. Jesus wept. His tears are stored with ours, recorded with ours in God's book because God does not forget: not our own deep personal griefs, not the tears we shed by the Holy Spirit. God is in the business of changing His people, molding them into the image of Christ, a holy people, a compassionate people. There must be tears: tears of repentance; tears of sorrow, tears of joy.
I do not find the tears of the Spirit easy to bear but they are necessary. I weep for myself & the sin that besets me. I weep for the world that knows Him not. I weep for the fallenness & brokenness. I weep because Jesus wept. It is part of sharing His sufferings.