So I wasn’t planning to cry. I mean, I wasn’t at a wedding, or a kindergarten graduation ceremony, or in the dark confines of my living room, watching one of those tear-jerker Hallmark commercials.
I was at a cheer competition.
My niece Rachel was performing, and I took my daughters to the “big city” to watch their cousin. Rachel is one of those “trick flyer” girls, who is tossed into the air throughout the performance. My first inclination during these heart-stopping stunts is, of course, to hold my breath while small humans wearing short skirts fling my even-smaller niece up into the rafters. My second inclination — after I remember to breathe — is to pray like a crazy woman. This is the main job of an aunt.
And then, somewhere in the middle of all of that not-breathing and remembering-to-pray, my heart comes alive. My heart sort of unhooks itself from my chest cavity, lodges itself in my throat and threatens to spill out through my eyes.
What I’m saying is: I want to bawl my eyes out at these cheer events.
When we went to see her perform for the very first time, I was completely taken off guard by this deep urge to cry. I only get to see Rachel perform about once a year, and she’s about the sweetest thing ever, so that’s part of the reason. But there had to be more to it than that:
Was it the bass-thumping music? The fancy lights? Who was the wizard manipulating things in the background to play with my emotions?
Most times, I successfully navigate my emotions, holding back the tears like Moses at the Red Sea. Sometimes, I lift my forehead a little, and look straight up at the ceiling, like I might be able to use the earth’s gravitation pull to keep the tears from falling.
I mean, it feels foolish to cry over a cheerleading event. Who does that? … Apparently, people. That’s who.
Turns out, we’re the only species on the whole earth who were made with the ability to cry tears from a happy place.
Turns out, our tears know us pretty well — sometimes better than we know ourselves.
Turns out, we cry because, Love. We cry because, Joy.
It happens in musty sanctuaries, when an old hymn grips you by the throat, dislodging some stubborn thing that has been stuck maybe a bit-too-long in a too-dark place. It happens at the father-daughter dance during the wedding reception. It happens at the Christmas Eve candlelight service, and also, when you watch those silly flash mob things on the Internet.
And, apparently, it also happens at cheer competitions.
It’s that airy, spirit-quickening feeling that brushes you up against something greater than yourself. It’s a sneak-peek at Heaven, a sunrise in your soul, a slide down the arc of the rainbow. It’s like you’re touching noses with God. And all because you let your life slip out on your tears.
We cry. Because we all want to be part of something beautiful.
And we want to know we’ve been in the presence of something beautiful — not just tolerable — but downright exquisite. That’s why do things like start the standing ovation at the fifth-grade band concert.
Sometimes? You just gotta stand up and clap loudly. And cry. You gotta cry the happiest, most grateful tears — the kind that might just embarrass your own children, and might embarrass yourself.
It’s a way to become more of who you really are. And afterward, you feel gentler. Like maybe your soul needed a bath after all. And your tears were the water.
That day at the cheer competition, I sat in the second row, and while I wasn’t planning to cry, I decided in advance that it was far too much work to try to stop it.
My niece was doing her thing. And she was shining. She was in her element. She was at the top of her game (but not at the top of the rafters for too blessed long –– Praise Jesus. )
There was music and bright lights and the high-pitched voices of a thousand fans, all of them screaming at the top of their teenaged lungs.
But it wasn’t the stuff happening on the outside that mattered. The mattering part always happens on the inside.
I felt my chin tremble, and my face flush, and I let it come out slowly, this soul of mine spilling out bit by bit. I held back some; I won’t lie about that. But it was a start. I cried a little, and it came from deep down in myself, like maybe more of my hard parts were melting. Like maybe there’s a very thin line between our tears and our prayers — or maybe no line at all.
So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.
You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.
Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.
Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.
Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.
A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer or a grammarian to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?
For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here.
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