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“Who decided that expressing emotion is weakness.”  Amelia Shepard, Grey’s Anatomy

     She couldn’t have been much more than four years old.   Her damp, honey-coloured hair freshly brushed, she smelled of soap and baby powder.  Dressed in Cinderella pajamas and fuzzy slippers she was excited.  It was Christmas time and tonight was special.  She sat on the green-flowered couch, her feet barely hanging over the edge, and watched.  The story played on the television in front of her.  The little boy, his companions a camel, donkey, and lamb, and his drum.  She absorbed everything she saw, the bad men who took advantage, the angry boy who lashed out in his loss, the joy at friends reunited.  The final scene unfolded, the lamb injured, the boy distraught asking for a miracle.  The baby Jesus looks at the lamb.  The lamb is raised to life.  The boy plays his drum.  The background music, “I am a poor boy too, pa rum pa pum pum, I have no gift to bring, pa rum pa pum pum.”  Something happened in her heart at that moment, it swelled, filled her chest and reached up into her throat.  Her heart spilled out of her eyes in tiny drops of tears.  They fell slowly down her cheeks.  Her mother, who did not understand, gently scolded her for crying over a T.V. show.  It was in that moment that she learned.  She learned that her heart was flawed.  Something was wrong with her and she didn’t know how to fix it.  
Truth be told I never did learn how to fix it.  Fix it being to stop the tears.  That is something I’ve never been able to do.  I’ve tried and it’s just not possible.  The inability to do so has left me feeling weak and pathetic.  There is no strength in this woman. 
Recently I was told, “your tears get in the way.”  They get in the way of the song I’m trying to sing, the message I’m trying to give.  What you don’t understand, person who is trying to help, is that I can’t stop them.

I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten the message that emotion equals weakness.  Not feeling, now that is strength.  “A brave face” and “courage” denote this image of facing whatever life throws at you without feeling anything.  And if you do feel anything, God forbid, you better not show it.  “you’ve got to be strong.  Don’t let yourself fall apart.”   It’s everywhere, movies, books, television, this notion that feeling something is weakness.  We are told to bottle up every expression of emotion and cap it so it doesn’t leak out.  Doing so means “I’m strong.”

A woman battling deadly cancer.  “Look how strong she is.  She never complains and is always smiling.”  Another walking through a long drawn out and very ugly separation.  “She the strongest person I know.  She holds everything together.”  And yet another woman whose beloved father dies and she never sheds a tear.  “I couldn’t cry, I had to be strong for everybody.”

So there it is, the proof that I’m not strong.  I’m weak and pathetic.  I’m a loser, sub-par, not good enough.  Why?  Because I simply cannot, absolutely CANNOT stop them.  The tears will flow.  They are a part of who I am.  If tears mean weakness, and tears are a part of me, then I am weakness.

Glennon Doyle writes, “I am a deeply sensitive person, living in a messy world.”  I’ve altered that.  “I am a deeply sensitive person living in a broken world.  And I am moved.”  My heart cracks and leaks when I see hurt and pain.  Strife and anger, hatred and down-right meanness are like knife wounds ripping the flesh of my heart.  Loneliness and broken relationships weigh heavily, like lead pressing and pushing.  Injustice, Biblical injustice, the kind where the poor are oppressed, the children go hungry, and the old and sick are left to fend for themselves, that injustice burns my heart into a raging flame.  The brokenness is everywhere, and I am witness.

And in all this mess, among all the glass shards of pain there is still kindness, and goodness, and love.  Perhaps that affects my heart even more than all the pain, and because of all the pain. My heart swells and bursts at acts of kindness and stories of triumph.  When the homeless are not only served a sandwich and a coke but their feet are washed by hands of love.  When a runner stops to lift one who has fallen and they make it to the finish line, together.  When a couple, married forever, walk wrinkled, arthritic hand in wrinkled, arthritic hand.  When a child hands his mother a dandelion. When a stranger holds open a door for me.

I feel every wound of brokenness and every drop of love.  I am unable to close my heart to it and the tears WILL fall.  If I try to close my heart….. well….. I will die.

That little girl, who is almost 50 now, still cries when she watches The Little Drummer Boy, her heart still breaks when she hears the story of Terry Fox, and cancer, and running across Canada, and death. And when she sings and pictures in her mind the never-ending love of God  the tears take over …. and sing for her.

So it seems I’ll never be strong.   Instead I’ll be ALIVE.

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