We don't tend to cry in public. It's just too raw. Too honest. Too embarrassing for words. This was the battle I had one Sunday, sitting shoulder to shoulder, hemmed in before and behind, by my church family. Rejoicing in our Lord Jesus. Blasting out his praise with gladdened hearts and faces glowing with sabbath smiles. And how I love this time of corporate adoration and worship. And how I was struggling to suppress the deep, engulfing waves of grief that were pulsating through the very core of my being.
I mustn't cry in church. I mustn't cry. I'm church. I mustn't cry in church.
I was a newly qualified midwife back then. The feelings I share are as real and powerful to me now as they were ten years ago. I sat with streams of sorrow spilling down my cheeks and splashing onto the open page of my Bible, blurring the very word of God. Blurring the truth momentarily, as I grappled with resisting the tears that were falling.
And this wasn't even my grief. This pain belonged to someone else: the mother and the father whose baby had never cried. Never drew breath. Whose cheeks never turned pink or curled its little fingers around their one index finger. All this was their anguish. And the more I recognised this, the more wracked I was by pain until I was sobbing uncontrollably, unable to put a voice to the words I wanted to cry. Lord, this is so unfair. Lord, this is so unfair. Lord, this is so unfair!
But our Lord is a Saviour who is familiar with grief and with sorrow. He too wept tears at the death of Lazarus. He too gave way to this most basic and physical act of sadness. And, as we release our tears sitting at his feet, we are bringing him our most authentic prayers. Our teardrops yielding the most vulnerable part of ourselves to him, entering his very throne room. And these tears become our wordless prayers as the Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know what or how to pray. He treasures every teardrop. Drop by drop by drop. As my tears subsided, I was filled with such calm and peace. I found myself in a place to give voice to the words I wanted to pray for these young parents.
All these years on, I still think of them, and I still pray for them when I do. They have three other children now. Praise God. But baby boy, you will never be forgotten. Crying in public might be too embarrassing for words, but our teardrops can be our wordless prayers before the one who brings healing and who restores. Jesus also wept.
Victoria Hutchinson is a Continuity of Care Team midwife in the midlands