I cry easily and often. Happy tears, sad tears, over-the-top tears, Hallmark commercial tearsyou name it, I've leaked over it.
Hankies up, girlfriends, if you're with me on this.
Out of sheer joy, I cry at church more than anywhere else. When I hear a wondrous truth spoken or a glorious song lifted in praise, when I see a new believer step forward or an old saint read the Scriptures, I'm so overwhelmed with God's presence that tears flow down my cheeks.
Not little dripsbuckets. Sheets of water. A monsoon.
Even after 16 years of marriage, this baffles my husband. He looks over at me, eyes wide with concern, and whispers, "Are you okay?"
"Oh, yeah." I smile blissfully as another waterfall plunges over my chin and pools on my silk blouse. "Couldn't be better."
While I've made peace with my non-stop tears, I know many women are ashamed of their tearfulness. One day I talked with a dear woman in Missouri named Marcia who thought her tears were a stumbling block to serving God. After hearing me teach about the woman in Luke 7 who anointed Jesus' feet with her tears, this leaking sister sought me out.
Between sniffs she explained, "I want more than anything to help hurting people in my church who go to the altar for prayer. But the minute I hear their stories, I start weeping, which embarrasses me to no end. Now I just hide in the pew."
"Aha!" I gave her a big hug. "You have a ministry of tears."
"When you weep right along with people, your tears help keep them from feeling foolish. The Bible tells us to 'mourn with those who mourn' (Romans 12:15), and to 'comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God' (2 Corinthians 1:4). See, babe? Your tears don't hurt, they help!"
Later, after I printed off all the Bible verses I could find on "leaking" and sent them to my new friend,
I discovered that Marcia got the message loud and clear. She wrote back: "During this evening's service, a lady in our church knelt at the altar, praying and crying desperately. Guess who God shoved down the aisle to help her? After she shared her needs with me, I did my usual leaking and a whole lot of blubbering. I had a difficult time speaking above the sobs, but
I prayed with her and loved her. And you know what? She knew my heart. And God knew my heart."
(Hang on a second, let me find a tissue.)
She finished with, "One of the verses you sent me said, 'He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy' (Psalm 126:6). All my life, I thought my tears were a curse. I just wanted you to know, I'm reaping a harvest of joy in Missouri!"
Marcia's experience shows God can use anything we surrender to him. Laughter and tears. Joys and sorrows. Victories and mistakes. Strengths and weaknesses. We minister to others best when we offer our true selves"as is"not waiting until we've cleaned up our act or dried up our tears, but right now, leaks and all.
My role model for crying isn't Mary or Martha from the Bible, it's Marcia from Missouri who bravely gave herself to God and trusted him to bring the tissues.
Liz Curtis Higgs, author of 28 books, including Here Burns My Candle (WaterBrook Press), lives with her familyand many boxes of tissuesin Louisville, Kentucky.