Tears for Prayers
11/17/16. Nine days since Election Day,
I hadn’t really been able to pray. Words eluded me.
A preacher unable to pray.
Well, now. What to do with that? How to understand that? I’m supposed to go to God in prayer, aren’t I? Cast all my cares, right? So on top of being angry, sad, and depressed, I was now also confused and ashamed that I wasn’t able to go to my “prayer closet” when, in sane moments, I knew that was where I needed to be most.
Instead, I cried. Not right away though. At first, there was just a steely reserve. A depressed acceptance. A cool detachment. And fatigue. Bone deep weariness. I didn’t even cry on Election Night. It was probably the next day when I felt tears bubbling, but I was in the company of someone I did not wish to console me, so I stuffed those tears down, willed them away, and looked to the sky, to the ground, to my phone, anything to distract myself. Over the next few days, I lay in my bed and sat on my couch and paced my apartment and stood in my shower and sighed and moped. But I did not cry.
Sunday came and social media suggested that I watch the cold open of Saturday Night Live. And there was “Hillary Clinton” singing an abridged version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
They say there was a secret chord
David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well, it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah …
Baby, I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though, it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah
I was in rapt attention at the bareness and rawness of the performance. And by the end of the third stanza, I was in a complete meltdown. Stuffed down tears burst through my hastily made seams and roared to the surface. I cried and cried and cried.
I couldn’t pray, but I could cry.
I cried for lost hopes and dreams. I cried for destroyed vision. I cried for impeded plans. I cried for hurting people and lost souls. I cried for all those who felt unsafe, for all those who would face attacks, whose realities were jolted, who would have to rethink their entire lives.
I cried because I was angry, because I was sad, because I was hurt, because I was frustrated. I cried because of the idiotic social media posts, the ignorance, the stupidity, the insensitivity, especially that coming from armchair quarterbacks and others purporting to be experts but who had no experience or context.
I cried because there was no food in my house, because the laundry was piled up, because the pizza delivery was two hours late. I cried because I was alone in my house crying, because I woke up in the morning alone crying, because I lay down alone at night crying. I cried because the one I wanted to cry with didn’t want to cry with me, and because the one who wanted to cry with me wasn’t the one I wanted.
Then I cried because I was crying and I hate crying, and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do to stop the crying.
I had lots of tears, lots and lots of tears, but I had no prayers.
And yet, I knew that I was not alone. Of course there were, I believed, millions of people who were also crying, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that, through all my crying and all my aloneness, I never felt abandoned in my spirit or bereft of friendship. I had a miles-deep knowing that God, my faithful and ever present companion, was with me. In my space. In my apartment. Watching over me. Minding me. Surrounding me. Tending to me. Being the kind of friend I’ve always valued: one with whom I can be quiet, with whom I can rest in the silences, with whom I can be, in whatever state I am being.
There was comfort in that. That even though I wasn’t talking, my Friend was still listening. That though I spoke no words, He heard my heart and was at work tending and mending my wounds, even the ones only He could see. That though I fretted about colleagues and friends, including Hillary, I had not a single worry about myself, somehow completely, deeply certain that God would take care of me. That though my waking hours were full of confusion and dismay and questions, my sleep was unaided and uninterrupted, sustaining and refreshing. I understood now, deeply and personally, a passage that I’d preached dozens of times before:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed;
We are perplexed but not in despair;
Persecuted but not forsaken;
Cast down but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
Comforted by the embracing Spirit of God, I’ve stopped crying now. I’m not over it, but I’m at peace. I’ve started planning … and writing … and praying with words. Oh, I’m still disappointed and I’m still angry … but this anger is motivating me and compelling me to work harder, to push further, and to love more … there is much to do to move our people forward, to empower women and girls, and to protect our progress.
Now I realize that my tears were prayers. And God heard every one.
I stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah …