Something very powerful and unusual happened this morning in my Personal Worship Time with the Lord. As I prayed through a Psalm in the Morning Office (“The Divine Hours” by Phyllis Tickle), I started to weep … uncontrollably. Now to those of you who know me well, I am not resistant to weeping. When I am moved, whether preaching, leading worship, sharing with a friend, or praying to the Lord, I will weep. But usually there is a “context” to my weeping: I think of something or I feel something strongly and it moves me to tears.
However, in this moment of prayer there was literally no context. There was nothing going through my mind, no emotional scenarios running through my heart. Just tears in the presence of God.
As my mind raced, “What is happening to me?” I realized that something must be going on at a deeper level within me – my soul.
Over the past year, I’ve learned a lot about my soul; that oft neglected aspect of my being that is always assumed, but never paid any attention. My soul gets a lot of lip service in preaching and teaching, but – until recently – never really given an opportunity to speak. But as I’ve learned in my reading of great books (Barton, Nouwen, Merton, Foster, Willard, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross), the soul is very powerful. On the positive side, it is the soul that connects with God. It is the soul where my True Self is formed. My soul is like a child: genuine, innocent, receiving love without reservation, giving love without pretense. On the negative side, when my soul is neglected life begins to leak out. When my soul is repressed it will “act out” in deep and sometimes, embarrassing or violent ways. So my soul is also like a wild animal (thanks to Parker Palmer for that word picture): hiding in the woods until it is safe, vicious when cornered or trapped.
These great writers have encouraged me to create safe places for my soul to come out in God’s presence through solitude and silence. As a Whole Life Worshiper, I want my soul to connect freely and powerfully with my Lord. I understand that the transformation that transpires in the worship dynamic cannot take place without honesty and surrender in the deepest parts of me – my soul. So I’ve invested a lot of time (for me, anyways) to solitude and silence. I’ve created environments of silence by turning off the radio in the car. I’ve purposefully silenced my mind and ego, through Silent Prayer. I’ve given time for my soul to come out and be heard, to feel safe and to be validated.
I think my soul safely came out this morning in God’s presence. And it came through tears.
The ancient writers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Anthony) talk about the “Prayer of Tears.” It is a mysterious prayer, sometimes a prayer of knowing, but more often a prayer of “unknowing” that comes with a flood of tears. I may have experienced that. All I know is that I didn’t drum it up. It just happened.
It wasn’t an inward flow – sometimes I feel the presence of God or the Love of God come on me and it moves me to tears, but it wasn’t that. It was more of an outward flow, a cry, a longing. As I sit in reflection, I sensed it might have been a longing for “home;” my eternal home with God. Or it could have been a child’s cry for his Parent that he misses. It’s hard to name at this time.
The weeping continued as I mumbled my way through the Morning Office, climaxing when I uttered the first words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father.” There I had to stop for several minutes. Our Father. Abba…
I still don’t know what it all means. It is a mystery. But I know something happened. Some sort of exchange took place. Something good.
It is well with my soul.