With a great deal of support (and perhaps a shove) from a dear friend and the subsequent hand-holding from someone who was (until recently) a mere acquaintance, I recently found my way back to church after 20+ years away. This has been a difficult process for me - one that I have contemplated for 9 years and seriously considered for many months now.
I was fairly certain last week that I had found my new church home. As the week progressed and I interacted with various church members and leaders, I grew more confident.
Today's message was on the Attitude of Gratitude. Gratitude for everything your life. Everything! Even the stuff that is feels like there is no good in it. Gratitude for everything that God has given because it is all for a purpose.
As I listened intently to the message, my mind was flooded with examples of all that I had to be grateful for. There were so many! I nodded in agreement. In that moment, my rational mind was right there with the message. Just then, I knew that even my forsaken marriage is a gift worthy of gratitude. I am physically healthier and emotionally stronger now than I was 7 months ago. There are a good many people in my life today whom I never would have met if my world had not shattered at my feet. And without the loss of everything I thought to be true in my life, I would not have been driven to find God again after so many years of pushing Him away. Yes, even the bad in my life is good!
And then - just a split second later - came the emotional response. Tears flowed - slowly at first, one teardrop at a time. I did not wipe them away. Then they came faster as a wave of emotions crashed over me. While my tears were silent (or so I hoped!), they were not unseen. Each time I would begin to pull myself together, there was a hand on my arm or my shoulder - someone I'd never met before letting me know that I was not alone.
As the service came to an end, I thought that I was finally going to win the Battle of Tears! But then a man made his way over to ask what he could do for me. Afraid to say more, I simply asked him to pray for me. He assured me that he would. As he walked away, the last of my emotional strength crumbled. Instantly, I was surrounded. I quite literally cried on the shoulder of a woman I had never met, my tears so thick that I couldn't even see her face. Others were holding my hands, sharing words of comfort and tending to my children.
Three faithful and resilient women sat with me as I cried more tears than I knew existed. There were not enough tissues in the world to mop me up! The only explanation that I could give for my devastation was a basic description of how my world imploded last September. (Not that an explanation was necessary or even requested, but how does one sob to perfect strangers without saying something?!) But as I spoke, I knew that it was just a sliver of the truth.
The truth is that I didn't even really know all the reasons I was crying! Sure, there is the pain of my husband's betrayal , the loss of so much that I yearn to recover, and the uncertainty that goes with contested divorce proceedings. But there was more. So much more! Some of it is beyond my own understanding. There was pain and sadness and loss and anger and other undefined feelings that were thoroughly unpleasant! But there was also an overwhelming appreciation for the love of God and His people, and an overall feeling of emotional safety.
Mostly, I think that the tears I cried today were those that I have held in for many days, weeks and months as I have attempted to handle for myself something that is simply too big for any human. They fell today because they could. They fell today because I knew that I was not alone. They finally fell because I have found my church home and people of faith who are ready to help me accept what I have fought for so long. Today's tears were something special. They were