Am I Supposed to Cry in Church?

I cry in church. Just about every time. It’s slightly embarrassing and I don’t know why I do it and I try to not make it noticeable when I do. Sometimes that’s easy and other times I just want to run out of said church.

Church is not a regular occurrence. I was never raised with any faith. I was baptized by Pastor Wells at the Hollis Ave. Congregational Church in Queens, New York and I think that was the last time my parents took me to church. They aren’t much of the “stand and greet your neighbor” kind and “Praise Jesus!” shouting folk are not my parents’ folk.

Note: I have never heard someone shout “Praise Jesus” in church but I’ve spent some time with the Methodists. They’re a tame bunch.

About 15 years ago, I made an initial try at attending church. It was nice but not overly moving. We went because my first husband wanted to have our daughter baptized so we had to find a church to call home. I loved the pastor. There was just something comforting about him. Then, after a few months of church attendance and right before the baptism, I found out he was leaving the church. Then I found out why:

Members of the congregation felt he did not take a strong enough stance against homosexuals.

We had our daughter baptized and I left the church and never went back. I couldn’t stomach it.

Last year, when my second marriage fell apart, some fiends invited me to go to church with them. I think they just wanted me to have some comfort. I was hesitant. It had been a long time and that road had a lot of potholes in it.

I mentioned all of this to two co-workers who I know go to church often. One’s dad is a pastor. The other is the epitome of what I would consider a man of God. I joked with them that I didn’t even own a Bible.

When they came back from lunch, they had bought me one. It is beautiful and inscribed with a message so lovely that I ugly cried in my office when they gave it to me. You seem a theme…

My friends are two older ladies who attend with their husbands. They said I could join them any time. So on New Year’s Eve I went to church.

I didn’t tell them I was coming because I wanted to be able to back out if I felt like it. I didn’t. I just went. It was awkward and I was by myself and more than a little terrified.

My friends knew I had been dealing with some difficult things over the last few months. They welcomed me with open arms and let me sit with them.

The sermon was Deuteronomy 2:3 — “You have circled this mountain long enough; now turn north.” The pastor spoke of spinning our wheels, denying our truth and knowing our path. He talked of knowing the path that God has created for us and trusting in that as it is the cradle of all hope. He spoke of seeing what we have to do and having the faith and courage to do it.

With the ink not even dry on my divorce papers it was like an anvil fell out of the sky and hit me on the head. That knot in the back of my throat nearly made me panic.

I sat there pretending there was something in my eye for about five minutes. I am sure I fooled no one. I got to my car where I was finally alone and away from people and I just cried. I mean, I sobbed.

I took my first solo vacation this year and visited an old, amazing church in Savannah, Georgia.

I went to the front and lit a candle for my grandmother and sat down in a pew. And I cried. I cried for who I was. I cried for who I am. I cried for who I’m going to be. I cried for all of us.

This time, I didn’t hide it. I just cried. It was a flood gate that opened and I couldn’t get it to stop. It felt pure and it felt good. I felt no judgment from anyone around me. I felt like the only person there amidst about a hundred people. I sat there for a long time.

I’m still not an overly religious person. I haven’t been to church since that day in Savannah, though I tell myself I should go. For me, it’s enough to know it’s there. But it overwhelms me and emotion always finds a way out. Sometimes, that’s okay too. It comes out one way or another. It might as well be in a pew.