Crying Out

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Psalm 84:2

I was eating lunch today with my wife, when from across the restaurant I heard what sounded like a siren. It only took a couple seconds for the sound to become clear. It was an infant crying.

The sound wasn’t particularly annoying, it was comforting in a way, to hear an innocent voice crying out like that. My wife commented how natural and instinctive that cry was. It made me think.

I hear babies cry out in church, in restaurants, in stores, etc. What I almost never hear is the voice of a grown-up, lifting their mournful sounds out into the space around them for everybody to hear. Once we reach a certain age, we just don’t wail in public.

Maybe we should.

What would you do if you were sitting in a restaurant, and from the table next to you came a loud, distinctively adult sound of weeping? You might freak out about it. You might even turn and ask them if they are okay. You probably would remember the event because of its unusualness.

Think about yourself. Have you had one of those days of desperation, when you need the living God to come and help you right now? I imagine if you’ve ever let loose a public wail like that it wasn’t because you were uncomfortable or fussy like a baby. You were in trouble.

The psalms frequently mention crying out to God in times of trouble. David and other psalm writers were no stranger to desperation. Did they wail in crowds? In the market? I don’t know. I kind of doubt it. There may have been worship settings or other places where public lament was acceptable, but I’m guessing many of these psalms were figurative or personal — private wailings to God for assistance.

Now, not every cry is a cry for God. Or is it? Even for a person who doesn’t know God, letting loose a wail is a plea to the cosmos for comfort. And God, we believe, stands by ready to provide it. We don’t always feel God’s arms wrapping us in an “it’s okay” hug, but we believe God is with us in our pain.

So maybe it would be healthy for us not to hold back. If we feel like crying out, maybe we should do it. (I know, I know: You first.) No, I probably won’t break that social taboo any time soon, but like that baby today at lunch, I’ve felt the desire to let it all out. It’s not just a natural desire, it’s a healthy one.

If you’d rather wait until you get home so you can put your head in your pillow and let’r rip, that’s a good alternative. If you want to use grown-up words to tell people you trust just how hard you’ve had it, by all means don’t hold it in.

But if you just have to tell the world how awful you feel, I fully support you crying out in the middle of your local Mexican restaurant. If I’m there, I’ll do my best to come check on you. I hope you’ll do the same for me.

More likely, though, that level of pain will remain more private for you and I.

Maybe the best we can do in a moment like that is to take a deep breath, offer a silent prayer to God, ask your friends for some care, and relish in the warm embrace of

the chips and salsa.

Have a good week,