Lent began Ash Wednesday. I guess this makes it Lent: Day 3. I told myself that for Lent, I would attempt to build a quiet life — or rather rebuild one. I’ve been trying to rebuild a place of quiet back into my life. In fact, I began seeing a spiritual director to do this. I should mention I started with my spiritual director over a year ago. Still, no consistent quiet time. Why? Too much grief. Too many tears.
I used to sit and have a quiet time every day. That’s what we called it back then: quiet time. We also talked about discipleship. But words become dated, dulled, associated with things far afield from their original intent. “Evangelical” used to be a theological word. Now it’s a political word liked to Jerry Falwell and, by proxy, Fox News. Prayer and meditation used to be part of the Christian life. But say “meditation” and some people think you’re calling on Ganesh, the Hindu god with blue skin, eight arms and an elephant head. They have thrown off the word “discipleship” for “spiritual formation.” I can’t read “spiritual formation” without seeing a bunch of monks making beer in a labyrinth. So much for words. But it all comes down to developing some kind of time alone in the quiet, with oneself and God.
And I suck at it. Too many tears.
But on Ash Wednesday, I tweeted a link to a blog post on Lent that I’d written two years ago. A twitter buddy responded that she wanted to try Lent this year, and did I have any suggestions?
Uh oh! Well, now I’m on the hook! (Thank you, Jennifer!) So I replied that I’d try to write every day.
This is my post today. It’s hard to be silent. It’s hard to come into quiet with one’s own self. Oh, it may be easy when you’re relatively young and your life is spooling out ahead of you; the road is unknown and the answers are going to be “Yes” and “Amen.” But when your life is at least half over, the answers are more likely to be “Ack” and “Oy vey.” Or sighs and tears.
Tears. On Tuesday, Frederick Buechner posted an excerpt from his book, “Beyond Words.”
You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it. Almost any movie made before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.
They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.
This is something I dealt with just last week in spiritual direction. Tears point to something. I am afraid to bring forth that longing or sadness out in the open, for fear God will mock it, condemn it, squash it like a bug. When in reality, God will more likely honor it — not indulge it or condemn it, but honor it for what it is, and then point the way forward.
That’s all I have for Friday, February 20. Hopefully I’ll have the courage to write every day.
Peace. Tears. Or whatever comes.
Dear Susan, I like this post about tears. You and Buechner are right. I have been crying to God about the state and plight of the world, or whatever happens in my quiet time with God and me. There is a psalm that states: “Why is my soul so disquieted?”[even in the night.]
What did quiet my soul tonight is the “40 day journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” I am behind as the book just arrived. Thank you amazon! But each day will be a comforting time of reflection, writing, and meditation…Living Waters for me during Lent. I shall see where this leads. Since dear Susan that you are Lutheran, you must know Dietrich.
By the way, I met you this past summer at the Glen West after your performance in the evening. You were very encouraging to me as I was and still am struggling with chronic fatigue.
Blessings to you and your daily writing!
Thank you, Mimi. Yes, I remember you! I am glad you found the blog.
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So very glad you are writing. I look forward to tears or whatever comes. Peace right back atcha.
In the midst, Teresa
Both your post and Buechner’s are good words for me for this week. The basketball mention stood out to me too because I got a bit teary this last week seeing the preview for McFarland, the movie about the track team. Hmm. On another note, I once heard a woman in a bereavement group say tears are healing, so that helps me respect them more. Thanks for the post.
This is beautiful, Susan. I’m not sure what made me think of you this afternoon, as I sit at the computer at work (but not quite working, unless getting nourishment of the spiritual kind is work? Well, it will help me in my work. Anyway, I digress).
I am touched by this. I am struggling with tears at the moment – I either want to cry all the time but can’t, or I cry when people are nice to me. It’s most peculiar. I’m going to try to sit with it, in the quiet.
Blessings to you, sister in Christ.
Jenny across the miles.
Thank you, Jenny! There is nothing wrong with tears. They’re very necessary and healing. (if not inconvenient when at work). Thanks again for your note!
Dear Jenny, Whatever the tears are for you, they are a Gift of Cleansing and Healing. Mimi