I don’t always go to church but when I do, I tend to cry through the hymns. This makes me feel like a jerk, for some reason. I always assume the rest of the congregation is watching me and shaking their heads, thinking, “That wouldn’t happen if she came to church more often.” I do everything I can to keep from crying (plan our lunch, make a mental list of my shoes, or try to remember the punchline to a really raunchy joke) but nothing seems to work.
I come by it naturally because my father was a church-crier too. I never witnessed this, mind you. My father didn’t put up with any nonsense at church and he scares me, so I never made eye-contact during mass. I saw the truth the day he took me to see “E.T.” and I caught him crying through the “E.T. IS DEAD” scenes. I was appalled but I didn’t say anything about it until I was alone with my big sister.
“Daddy CRIED during ‘E.T. today!”
“Ha! Yeah, he’s a big softie. He’s cries at church all the time, through the hymns. I guess they take him back to his Alter Boy days.”
I was shocked at the time, but now I totally get it. I think I’m fine, in complete control, and then somewhere in the first verse my throat closes up. I understand why SOME hymns get to me. “How Great Thou Art” is especially tough because it was my Mom’s favorite and we sang it at her Memorial Service. I can’t sing it AT ALL anymore which sucks because it’s soaring and beautiful. All the things you can’t be when you’re choking back snot. That’s not the only one though. “Here I am Lord,” “On Eagle’s Wings,” are both impossible and don’t even TRY “Amazing Grace” around me.
Just this past Sunday at church our Pastor said, “We sang this hymn last week and I heard lots of sniffling out there. It’s appropriate for this sermon and you obviously LIKED it, so let’s sing it again.”
I was shocked. Not only does the Pastor KNOW we’re crying, he’s doing it ON PURPOSE! Well, not this time buddy. I wasn’t at church the prior week (I already told you what a lousy church goer I am) and had never heard of this “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry,” but I felt certain it wouldn’t get to me.
Then we started to sing.
“I was there to hear your borning cry. I’ll be there when you are old…”
I was sharing the hymnal with my 9-year-old daughter and she had her arm around my waist.
“I rejoiced the day you were baptized, to see your life unfold.”
She nuzzled her little head into my side and that was it.
“Mommy, are you crying?”
DANG IT! And you know what’s even worse? I’m crying as I type this. I can barely see the computer screen because I’m crying so hard.