Steve's Story: Grieving the Losses
Excerpt from Rescued from Hell, Chapter 7: Journey to Healing
It seems that we have a spiritual anatomy that somehow mirrors our physical anatomy. Scripture speaks of the heart and mind of the new creation, and Paul plays out this analogy fairly extensively in terms of the corporate Body of Christ. I don't want to press the image too far, but I became aware of my spiritual anatomy through recognition that grief was actually lodged in a very specific location in my physical body. Due to its location I called it my "soggy heart." Of course I never spoke of this out loud to anyone. I wasn't about to let anyone pry it open with words. I didn't even want God to touch it. So, I kept it sealed up, but always in the back of my mind I was aware of heaviness, a deep unanswered sorrow that radiated from a part of my heart, which I knew to be filled with tears.
I was only too well aware of how I got saddled with this soggy heart. It dated back to the time I was desperately trying to keep my life from going down the drain. This lasted for a full year and a half, until the Night of Terror finally arrived and hell ended all thought of rescue. During this period I was filled with the conviction that the lives of everyone I knew and cared about were connected to mine by this same universal spirit through which I was seeking transformation. As I grew increasingly delusional, I lost my normal life connections with all of them, which grieved me tremendously. But it was much worse than that due to the deception: I entirely believed, rather I was made to believe, that they had died when I "died". I was responsible for the death of everyone I loved. This brought such grief and guilt into me that I might have been swallowed by it alone, had not the terrors of hell been a more profound and pressing problem.
Now that I was out of the delusion, the grief and guilt that I had shoved down years before were trying to resurface, seeking to be heard. My response? Not on your life - I'm not listening! This became so ingrained that if my soggy heart ever began to surface during an unguarded moment, I would slam-dunk it by a practiced inward reflex. Meanwhile "sneaky" God was working to undermine this towering stronghold by another strategy. He was reacquainting me with tears and getting me to like them. Throughout the ten years of "burning" in hell I could not cry - would not cry - although I remember misting up once or twice watching a sad scene in a movie like Casablanca. I suppose that real tears need a modicum of hope that someone somewhere may hear our cry and listen, perhaps even bring help. I didn't have a shred of hope, so why bother? I am certain that in the real Hell the damned are screaming for all they are worth, though that reality is too horrible for me to hold very long in thought. But I seriously doubt any of them are shedding tears - there is no one there who cares.
Now that I was saved and back on planet earth, the Lord had opened up whole rivers of tears within me. I could cry for joy over being alive again, for sorrow over sins and in compassion for the hurts of others. I would cry reading scripture. Your truth is so beautiful! I still do to this day, even when leading a service. Tears also flowed freely when the presence of the Lord drew near and whenever I was drawn into intercessory travail for the lost or for world calamities. And I was glad for it. At the very least, tears remind us "hardboiled" men that we have a heart after all. Tears soften the heart the way soft rain prepares the soil for planting. As Watchman Nee says, "Tears are liquid prayers". God listens to every drop. They matter to Him.
Tears must matter to Him because I can testify that the Lord seemed very determined to get me to open my soggy heart to His ministrations. It is comical in hindsight - He would touch me there, I would slam it down; He would touch me there, I would slam it down. Finally, I caught on. I realized He was after my secret stash of tears, so I decided to open up, to take a chance and get a conversation going. Are you aware that we can refuse to speak to Him; refuse to listen? He loves us enough to let us shut down, but it is ill advised. I said a bit testily, "What are You doing?" I want you to give Me those tears. "You don't understand. It's way too deep. If I start crying those tears I will never come to the end of them." You don't understand. Tears are finite. My joy is infinite. Give me the tears so you can enter My joy. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.
I knew that I would never open this up around anyone else, but since I was already sitting in a comfortable chair and since there was no one at home at the time, I asked Him to help me get started by putting me in touch with the feelings. Wham! Suddenly, I could not stop crying. Great wracking sobs were streaming out of me. It was a torrent of pent-up tears. While it was passing through me the only conscious connection I could make to it was the general period of time I knew it involved. I prayed a bit in tongues, but mainly I just gave myself to the tears and imagined that Jesus was sitting opposite me, listening to my heart cry. He showed me that I could not cry when all of this happened to me because I would not allow myself to cry into an empty universe. Now everything was different - He was here comforting me with His presence.
After about twenty or thirty minutes of this unrestrained flood, I told Him that was all I could do and that I needed to take a break for the day, but I would come back to it the next day whenever He would arrange the time. We did this together every day or so for a month. Towards the end of the month, with no abatement to the volume or violence of the tears, I asked Him if I was anywhere near the end of it. Soon. "Soon? It seems to me You used that same word to describe Your return and it's been almost two thousand years!" Soon. Fortunately for me, soon came sooner rather than later. Much to my surprise, I cried the last tear. In the ensuing silence, I got up, went into the kitchen and fixed a cup of tea. Then I took a good look inside my formerly soggy heart. It was entirely empty! There was no grief, no guilt, no heaviness left, only a quiet spring of joy bubbling gently up to the surface. Lord, You did it all without words or prayers! You did it with the tears! Take heart, dear reader. Give God your tears. Hold nothing back. There's joy on the other side of them.
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