The Cross and the Ugly Cry
|Photo credit: furtherinto-myhead.blogspot.com|
I cried at church yesterday.
Not your typical "God is so awesome that I need to wipe this discreet tiny bit of moisture from the corner of my eye" type of crying.
I'm talking about full on wailing, gasping, snotting, keening crying.
It wasn't pretty.
As I mentioned last week in another post, I was given an amazing song to lead this Sunday during communion. After some initial bumps in the road, I am happy to say I had plenty of time to rehearse the song -- making sure I had the lyrics memorized and down, and all the high notes reached and tweaked.
(Sidenote: If you want to listen to the song, O the Blood, for reference to this next part, or mostly just because it's incredible, awesome, heartfelt, cleansing, etc., you can do so below.)
I even spent some quality time contemplating the weighty lyrics about Jesus' death on the cross and that "blood that is my victory." As I marinated in that truth, I did shed a tear or two (the dignified kind) and I felt like I had really walked through what that act meant for me and the gratitude I felt and feel about that sacrifice.
I prayed and asked God to use me to help others see and understand the depth of His love for us -- that we would be overwhelmed by it and by His son's death for our life.
So, yesterday morning when it came to be the moment of truth, I was a bit nervous because of all I hoped the song would do and convey. But mostly, I was excited to see how God would use the song to minister to people -- the way it had to me.
I started off fine.....I got lost in the song along the way and didn't need my notes or the lyrics. I just sang. As it sometimes happens, my throat became thick with emotion and as a result, I lost a bit of the easy high tone of the song. But I didn't even care. It was still okay.
But then came the big moment....when I went to sing:
"Yet in my sin.....yes, even then...I was destroyed.
He shed His blood for me...."
I was able to warble through the chorus:
"Oh the blood of Jesus washes me,Between having that realization smack me in the face of God loving me even in my sin, and that His blood becomes my victory.....well, I was completely and utterly undone.
Oh the blood of Jesus shed for me,
What a sacrifice, that saved my life,
Yes, the blood...it is my victory."
During the last refrain (at 4:12 for those of you who are following along with the song) when everyone cuts out except me and the guitar, and I was supposed to softly and sweetly repeat a la Kari Jobe...
"What a sacrifice that saved my life........I didn't.
(insert vocal prowess and awesome breath control here)
Yes, the blood....it is my victory....."
I did something kinda like...
"What a sacrifice....that saaaaavvvveeed my..... (insert falsetto Beaker from the Muppets, cracked-vocal, trembling)...liiiiffffeee."And I finished it off with an extra special...
"Yes...the blood (wavering, warbeling)....unintelligable words...(loud wail) my victorrrrrrryyeeeeee."And then I completely lost it. I full on cried (and I think snorted) into the microphone. Shoulders heaving. Snotty nose running. Loud wailing and lamenting.
I eventually had the presence of mind to put the microphone down, but that was merely to kneel down and bow before God. I felt so incredibly heavy with gratitude and the knowledge of what Christ did for me in my ugliest state of sin.
It felt like I cried for a long time.
It felt like there was a spotlight on me.
Part of my brain was horrified by my undignified spectacle and the other part didn't even care.
Eventually, the pastor (who also happens to be my father) said some words (I can't even remember really...I was too far gone) about truly feeling and understanding the sacrifice of Jesus and then he led us in a time of communion. Somehow I fumbled around and found the elements of bread and wine. Somehow I was able to take them along with everyone else.
I felt dazed.
I felt like I had been shipwrecked...by grace.
But as we left the stage, I started to feel...well, embarrased.
It's one thing to weep (prettily) in front of a few friends, but it's another thing altogether to "ugly cry" in front of 250 people. I felt like a private part of me was suddenly put on display for all to see without my consent.
But, wait....I did give my consent.
Earlier I had prayed that God would use me so that everyone there would, "understand the depth of His love for us -- to be overwhelmed by it..." (to quote myself above).
And He did.
Just not in the way I anticipated.
My intent in my prayer was that God would help me to sing well and do all the vocal pretties that would tenderly convey His message.
Instead He chose me to be real-life, in-the-moment example of it.
I was completely overwhelmed.
He overwhelmed me.
As I mentioned, I thought I had "fully processed" the song during the week precisely to avoid this type of situation. But this brokenness went so far beyond that. It was deep. It was visceral. It felt almost like God compelled me to...well, be broken and completely real about it....ugly cry and all.
So, as I walked up the side aisle and into the foyer headed towards my seat by my husband, I felt a little conspicious. I didn't really want to make eye contact with anyone. I just kinda wanted to hide out and be slightly mortified. That was definitely the human side of me.
(Sidenote: Funny add-on to this story...my husband was not in his seat. He was "baby wrangling" and so he missed the Great Snotfest of 2011. However, he slinked in after offering. We exchanged a couple of words. He asked for gum. He looked in my eyes, motioned for paper and pen and wrote, "have you been crying?")
But back to my somewhat walk of shame up the aisle....as I walked out that door to the foyer, one of "the greats" in my church (someone whom I really respect and admire), grabbed my hand and whispered fiercely, "Thank you!"
"Thank you?"...hmmm...that was the last thing I expected to hear. I'm used to a "Good Job," or even, "Nice song," and maybe in this situation a,"Bless your heart (which really means, "oh you poor thing.")
But, thank you?
And that's the comment that I continued to hear after service had ended. A few other people came over for a quick hug or pat on the back and they all said it...."thank you."
And I realized that they were thanking me for being willing to go to that deep place in front of them -- not that I really had a choice, to be honest -- to crack open that door and to allow in that depth of emotion.
It was my "King David in a skirt moment."
If you don't know the story in the Bible, you definitely should read it, but I'll sum it up this way. David felt something so deeply, he could not contain himself. He ended up dancing for a joy like a maniac in a priestly garment that's described much like a skirt -- because he could do nothing else to express what he was feeling. He danced in this manner all the way back to Jerusalem and when his wife saw him, she was horrified at the display. When she called him out and mocked him, he replied with...
"Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!" (2 Samuel 6:22a)So there I was yesterday...slightly humiliated in my own eyes....but so much more grateful for what I felt and realized in those precious moments before God. And if my "foolishness" opened a rusted-up floodgate for someone else, then I would gladly give up a measure of my dignity.
I ugly-cried in church yesterday.
And, I don't think it will be the last time.