There’s something I’ve noticed over the years looking out from the pulpit to the people in the pews: tears—lots and lots of tears. I wasn’t sure why so many people were dabbing their eyes, so instead of questioning the quality of my preaching, I figured I had better ask!
The responses reflected a variety of experiences. Of course, some were dealing with recent losses and carried the raw emotions of grief. I hope church can always be a place to come for comfort for those who have lost a loved one, that tears of grief can also be tears of peace hearing again the promises of the resurrection.
Others found themselves with watering eyes in response to the beauty of hymns or sitting with happy memories of days gone by. The sights, sounds, and even smells of church can flash us back in time, recalling the people who helped shape our faith during formative years. Some of my eye-leakers were processing things going on in their lives and felt a release as they sat in the sanctuary. A few had experienced happy tears echoing the words of the hymn, “Joyful, joyful we adore thee.” Lots of parents and grandparents got teary praying for the young people in their lives, especially those whose challenges are great.
Most people don’t cry too much at work. You’d probably feel uncomfortable tearing up at the grocery. Our social media usually portrays the best, most photogenic parts of our lives—not too many of us post pictures of ourselves ugly crying. Kids learn early on that showing emotions and vulnerability at school can be asking for trouble.
But church, as is often the case, is inherently different.
There’s some history here. The psalms were likely put to paper for the purpose of individual or corporate worship. Have you read them? If a feeling exists, it can be found in the psalms: anger, joy, hatred, love, anxiety, grief, relief, hope, bitterness, and so on. And I say, right on! Our faith and discipleship are woven through the emotions that we carry. When we come to church, we should feel free to bring all the emotions swirling inside our heads and lay them before God.
Let us pass on that tradition to our kids as well, that they innately know their church as a safe place to express and process all that is going on in their lives.
“Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)