In the hours and days following my Mother passing, I cannot begin to imagine the thoughts and fears my Dad had. He was in his early forties with three daughters. Our ages were 15, 11 and 9. It was 1966. Women were still considered the ones to be in charge of raising children, keeping house and if working, working in traditional jobs. For a man to be thrust into the job of raising girls was most likely more than my Dad bargained for. It is only recently that I have thought of the hardships my Dad faced.
My older sister was inserted as a surrogate mom to my younger sister and myself. Now I see how unfair that was for a young girl on the brink of being an adult. Often I have thought she was cheated out of the ability to be a teenager without all the responsibility of taking care of younger siblings.
In the mental and emotional chaos coming the days following her death and her funeral I remember my Dad saying to me, “If you feel like you have to cry, blow your nose or chew gum.” I don’t know if I was the obnoxious one who was crying incessantly or if I was loud. But, I blew my nose and I chewed gum.
Unfortunately, that became a rule in my life whenever I cried. As the years passed tears came only when I was furious, or if a movie was sad. At those times, I had a pile of used kleenex beside me. You can imagine, this was not healthy. I held myself under tight emotional control.
In my thirties I was in counseling for several things in my life. Dale at that time was in an isolated duty station, which meant I was the only adult in the house.
Tears were an issue that was discussed often in my sessions. I guess being a woman and not being emotional was a curiosity. I prayed about it. I asked the Lord to show me how to cry.
When Dale was away, my treat for the evening was always oreo cookies and milk. One evening after the girls were in bed, I went to the kitchen for my treat. As I reached for the package of cookies, tears hit me.
Initially, I wondered what they were. I slumped to the floor in my kitchen. I sat in a heap of tears. I could not move. I sobbed, I cried, I could not stop. I don’t know how long I sat there, but it was long enough that I was stiff when I finally stopped. During that time a peaceful presence was with me. I felt the Lord beside me, holding me up and urging me to let it all out. Years of pent up emotion was released that night. Anxiety, hurt, fear, and anger left me. After I had stopped, I heard, “Now go blow your nose. Cry when you have to cry.”
Since that time I am a crier. Commercial from hallmark? Tears. Seeing a child walking for the first time? Tears. Running out of oreos? Tears. You get the idea.
My heart grew hard trying not to cry. I could rationalize most things. I would allow myself tenderness in prayer and worship with the Lord, but closed myself off from tenderness or emotion in all other areas of my life. Hardness of hearts is a slow process. You don’t feel it happening, and you don’t recognize it. But, unattended, a heart will grow crusty and cold. I daily pray that my heart be a heart after my Lord. I don’t want to return to the coldness that a hard heart is.
“ Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” Hebrews 3:15 (NLT)