Reblog from Response

So honored to work with United Methodist Women. Here is this month’s column in response.

From the Shelter Island Retreat.
From the Shelter Island Retreat.

I cried in church last week. The song “Here I Am, Lord” moved me. I was coming to terms with worries and sorrows—my children growing up, and my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease.

I felt embarrassed crying in public, worried that my fellow worshipers would think I was weak or in need of help. I know intellectually that church is a safe place for tears—after all, we cry for joy at weddings or with grief at funerals. But I could not shake the feeling that I should not be crying on an ordinary Sunday. At times, I am caught in this trap of caretaking, feeling I should be the one to comfort others and not need comfort.

Then I remember that it is through our tear-filled, vulnerable moments when we discover what truly matters. The next day I read this quote from Brené Brown in her new book Daring Greatly: “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. … Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”

I cry because I am vulnerable and because I care. Perhaps, like me, you have tears for yourself, family, work, church, community, nation or world. After a good cry, we can share our vulnerability. I like to write about my emotions. After expressing feelings, we can then roll up our sleeves and see how to make it better. This can-do attitude, of which United Methodist Women is famous, resonates with me.

Some of the articles in this issue of response offer opportunities to discuss the vulnerable places in our lives and communities. In Rachel Patman’s Bible study, “Holy Nagging: Advocating for Domestic Violence Survivors,” we are led to talk about unequal status and power and control. We can also read one woman’s experience of growing up in an abusive situation and her resolve to not pass on that abuse to her daughter in “Ending the Cycle” by Samantha York.

Take note of “Strengthening the Ties that Bind Us” by Laura Sonnemark for National Justice for Our Neighbors. This story may inspire you to volunteer. Or follow in Dixie Liggett’s footsteps, described in “Having a Heart.” Visit a local community center, send funds to a mission partner on the border or organize a churchwide workshop, providing the facts around the United Methodist policies on immigration. Build a supportive community so that all women feel welcome into United Methodist Women. Notice the times and places where you tear up, be it reading, writing or singing in church on Sunday. Set aside judgment about how women express their vulnerabilities.

After all, emotions are a gift from God, a chance to share our common humanity and show us what really counts. Believe that your prayers and tears are heard. As the first line of the song “Here I Am, Lord” by Daniel Schutte, expresses, “I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.” Take comfort.

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