On Sunday I got to sing with the praise choir at church. It was such a beautiful gift. During one of the songs we sang the chorus to the Christmas Hymn "O Come All Ye Faithful." It took me back to another time and another place, singing that simple chorus.
I was in the fall semester of my first year in seminary. Tim and I were attending a Mark Lowry concert. Oh he is such a funny man! After an evening of laughing our heads off, the comedian brought a single chair on stage, sat down and sang "Mary Did You know." It was the first time I had heard that song. As he finished he invited the other musicians who had shared the evening to join him on-stage as they led us in worship. We stood shoulder to shoulder singing "O come let us adore Him," over and over, the splendor of God's gift to us heavy on our tongues. The worship just kept pouring out. Can you tell it was an extraordinary moment?
It became a moment I got lost in.
Let me just say that my experience of God's presence in my life has often been through my thoughts, my feelings, and all the neurological stuff that connects the two. I especially see Him in the ordinary. And while I'm very expressive about all that, it's wrapped in the usual, the expected, the everyday experience of being alive. God just helps me see it in an unusual, unexpected, and rare way. I'm just not the girl that has mystical experiences. And if I was going to have a vision, this is not the one I would go looking for.
Sometimes visions come looking for us.
Standing there singing those sweet songs, I closed my eyes as I often do. In my mind's eye, I "saw" standing before me a robed person, sturdy, substantial. But I could not see the face. Just hands outstretched before me. As I looked at these hands I saw that they were pierced. I knew immediately Who was with me. We stood there holding hands: His hands holding mine; my hands grasping, and touching, then tracing the scars in His. I was so overcome I began to weep.
For all of my life up to that time, I knew God's Presence. I could sense the Invisible Power of God's being all around me. And the Holy Spirit was familiar too, empowering my love, my speech, my service. But this Jesus? So hard to relate to. Somehow the physical manifestation of God's glory was too difficult. And it's not that I didn't try. I gave my heart to Him a hundred times growing up. I just couldn't make the connection.
But there I was that fall evening in the middle of a Connection I never imagined. As I wept, so overcome with emotion to be in the presence of Jesus, those nail-pierced hands began to wipe my tears away. "No," I said, "there are too many!" The words that entered my spirit came gently: "There are never too many tears for Me to wipe away."
And that's it.
Eventually the music ended. The concert was finished. We all went home.
I had no idea at the time what lay ahead. The coming year would bring despair like I had never known. A dark depression would settle over me, choking out joy, leaving those around me wondering whether I would emerge. Oh the tears. So many tears.
During that difficult time I wondered often at the vision God gave. I was angry that all I got was Jesus wiping my tears. I did not get miraculous deliverance. The pain was real. The tears were real. Healing seemed so elusive.
I understand so much more about healing and miracles now, years later. Tears and tears later. What a sweet gift that vision was. Because what I now get, is that the tears we weep are part of God's mercy washing through us, helping us go through what is impossible to go through. He designed us to be able to move through unspeakable heartache and pain without getting lost in it. Simply by crying our way through it. And as we weep He heals. And helps. And He is there wiping away our tears, and saving them. There is not one that falls to the ground, escaping His notice.
Christ's very own words to us: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). We have His promise of comfort, in the very middle of our grief. Do we have the courage to allow His comfort to come? Do we have the courage to feel the heaviness of hurt, and pain, and disappointment? Do we have the courage to allow the waves of loss and heartache to pass through us? Sometimes the only way out is to cry.
When I reflect on Lot's wife, I believe this was her problem. She kept looking back. Instead of letting go, and weeping out the pain of having to leave her home behind. She kept looking back. Refusing to release a life she could no longer have. And so she became imprisoned in the very salt that was supposed to be her deliverance. If only she had wept as she walked. She could have found new life.
I have thought of the vision God gave me that fall often since the shootings in Connecticut. I have wept as I consider the indescribable pain those families are experiencing. And I look at the sweet faces of those kindergardeners passing through my facebook news feed, thinking of my own kindergardener playing in the next room. Sweet Jesus have mercy.
I am comforted when I remember the words of scripture:
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record? (Psalms 56:8)These tears we cry mean something. Of course they mean something to us. But they mean just as much to Him. JUST AS MUCH! His promise to us is that we never weep in vain. Every tear that escapes our eyes, allowing us to release the pain, leaves its mark in His heart. He remembers each and every one, and every reason that caused it to fall. And He saves them for us. For that day when we will see that He makes all things right, all things new:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I head a loud voice from the throne saying, "See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4)Until that time, all we can do is keep weeping, knowing that in His keeping our tears are helping us find our lives again. And we must keep praying. Every night when I put the boys to bed I pray Jesus's prayer over them. Those familiar words fall fresh on my heart in this season: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven." I pray those words because I know. This is not the way it's supposed to be. This kind of loss, this kind of pain. It's not what God's Kingdom looks like, and it's not what God's will looks like. Our tears are testimony to that. And I will keep on praying until my Sweet Jesus comes to make all things right, all things new.