I have an amazing gift — my church, Dallas First Presbyterian Church and Pastor Joe Clifford. I do not consider myself a proselytizer. In fact, I see myself on an inclusive, open spiritual journey. And Joe has an extraordinary capacity to inform and enrich my path in ways that are difficult to articulate. Today was an excellent example. He talked about the celebration of Easter wearing off as we entered a week punctuated by the bleakness of tax day, difficult professional challenges — real life, etc. Then, he said a “friend” forwarded him the Susan Boyle link on Wed — the astonishing performance of the unassuming 47-year-old on Britain’s Got Talent, who has captured the world’s imagination. He says he does not have time for all the forwarded email he receives, but he opened this one.
He said he wept — and he asked the congregation how many of us had seen it and wept. Most of those present raised their hands. He went on to describe theologian Frederick Buechner’s take on the origin of these tears. I now cannot get enough Buechner. He ponders:
“How do you listen to your life? How do you get into the habit of doing it? How do you keep ears cocked and your eye peeled for the presence of God or the presence of anything else? One thing I have said, which I think is true, is to pay attention to any of those moments in your life when unexpected tears come in your eyes. You never know when that may happen, what may trigger them. Very often I think if you pay attention to those moments, you realize that something deep beneath the surface of who you are, something deep beneath the surface of the world, is trying to speak to you about who you are.
You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it. Almost any movie before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.
They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are. More often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and to summoning you to where you should go to next.
And I wondered why. I think I know why. I think what happened was that we were remembering Eden. This marvelous dance of humans and beasts and joy and freedom – and God was certainly present there this joy and freedom from so many things that plague us. It is where we all started from, I think, in some fashion, some odd way. It is where, by God’s good grace, we are all headed. Just this glimpse of it was more poignant than grief and something I’ve always remembered. That is an example of what I mean by listening to your life. It would be an example of the best advice I can give you. If anyone wants to start listening in a new way, keep track of those moments when something brings those tears to your eyes.”
I thought about some tears that have caught me off guard in my life:
1. The full crescendo of brass while singing “He is Risen” last weekend. Gets me EVERY year — no matter what’s going on in my life.
2. The song “One Day More” — also from Les Miserables. (And many other songs.)
3. Many of Joe’s sermons.
4. Some moments of triumph in movies or plays. Ian, my son, always asks, “Are you really crying, mom?” I always answer, “Happy tears.”
5. A passionate kiss.
6. The laughter of my sons.
7. Looking out across the meadow at Mo Ranch on Sunday morning.
8. The kind words of a friend.
9. My father’s tears when he heard my mom was going to be OK.
10. The embrace of my sons.
Joe said we have a profound, spiritual reaction to joy — to God. And it’s not enough to experience the moment — we must use it as a way to discover our own life’s calling — what God has called to do and be.
Are you listening to your life — and your tears?