The current worship series at UUCA is on Sacred Objects. Last Sunday’s sacred object was tears.
When I started attending services in August I was surprised at how often tears sprang to my eyes. I’d never been a big crier, though over the years – especially after having children – I did seem to well up a bit more often. Still, I was shocked I couldn’t make it through a service without tears. I commented to my friends – “I don’t know when I became a crier, but I do wonder when it will stop surprising me”
“I’ve got tears like the raindrops
I’ve got tears like the raindrops
I’ve got tears like the raindrops in my soul”
I sang the first verse of the hymn sweetly.
Intern minister Taryn Strauss read a piece she had written about crying in church. Quoting a UU minister friend of hers, she referred to tears as “spiritual sweat” and talked about the release that crying in church can bring.
“We cry at church because we are traumatized, because life breaks us down, because underneath our carefully crafted persona there is a firestorm, a whirling hurricane of anxiety, woundedness, unfulfilled need, fear, heartbreak, or unexpressed joy.”
This image, from Shel Silverstein’s poem “Hinges” popped immediately into my head.
I felt like she had peered into my brain and looked inside.
A whirling hurricane of anxiety.
“I’ve got pain like an arrow
I’ve got pain like an arrow
I’ve got pain like an arrow in my soul”
This verse came belting out.
I don’t even know what a soul is, really, but it seems to me that pain must leave an indelible mark on it. Even when the pain is gone, or at least dulled after the passage of decades, there’s a memory of it that remains. I’ve been through a lot of painful shit in my life. I don’t feel like I carry that around with me, (there’s plenty of baggage I have carried with me but that usually falls more into the shame/embarrassment category), but I *felt* that verse. I felt the memory of that pain. It’s in there.
“I’ve got peace like a river
I’ve got peace like a river
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul”
Back to my sweet soprano.
This verse made me think of another line from Taryn’s piece.
“When most of your week is spent underground, or in a tiny, windowless office, or claustrophobic apartment, encountering bright, open space can instantaneously provoke deep emotion. Just the chance to stretch out, and feel small can bring a relief you didn’t realize you craved.”
She was referring to the sanctuary of All Souls UU in NYC. But for me it spoke of the feeling I get while hiking. Just the chance to stretch out, and feel small. Hiking makes me feel insignificant. In a good way. When my problems seem big, I go somewhere that makes me feel small. That’s outdoors. That’s nature. The earth is SO big. Just the little part of it that I have access to is so big. Trees that tower over me, creeks that rush with a current strong enough to sweep me away, or on a gentler day, whisper a quiet song still powerful enough to shape stone.
I’m no longer surprised when I cry at services. I just wonder why I never remember tissues. I teared up a few times during the service on tears, but it was this song when I lost it.
How could anyone ever tell you
you were anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you
you were less than whole?
How could anyone fail to notice
that your loving is a miracle?
How deeply you’re connected to my soul
The words blurred in front of my eyes and my voice choked on a sob. I felt like I was singing to myself. Can you be disconnected from your own soul? Can negative self-talk and toxic thoughts actually *disconnect* you from yourself? I think they can. And I feel like I am finally reconnecting with it on this crazy journey of self-discovery. Self Love. It’s everywhere. It’s in Yoga With Adriene and it’s in Brené Brown’s books and in the phrase we repeat quietly to ourselves in the meditation.
I will love myself, I will love others, and that love will heal the world.
“Most people cannot say why they cry at church, just that it triggers their tears as a response, and they need to do it. They are not repelled by their tears, they still look forward to church each Sunday. They look forward to their soul’s workout. Because after a good spiritual sweat, you return to yourself a little raw, a little more vulnerable, and like after any exercise routine, a little bit stronger after a good, albeit slightly muffled, church cry.”
Thanks Taryn, for the giving me words for my soul’s workout. I’ll be there Sunday. With tissues 😉