This blog comes off the back of something my beloved wife said to a friend this weekend just gone. The friend and Sheila had been in tears during an emotional and Spirit-filled act of worship.
[At this point it may be worth pointing out to those reading that it’s not unusual for Christians to cry, expressing a whole range of emotions from sorrow to joy, when worshipping together. This may surprise non-Christians whose impressions of Christians could be based on friends or colleagues who exhibit a ‘sorted’ demeanour at all times, or a happy-clappy exterior. It may come as a shock to some Christians too, who think the key to being a follower of Jesus is to appear cheerful in all circumstances and say things like ‘God is good all the time’ when faced with a parking ticket, or a particularly nasty nappy to clean. I have done both of these.]
Anyway, my wife was being consoled by her friend and came out with the phrase, ‘Tears are always good… burps not so much.’ Classic Sheila.
For me this epitomises so much of the journey we’ve been on together the last couple of years. Our story is one of many tears and, as yet, no sign of the happy ending we dreamed of when we stood opposite each other and exchanged rings and vows. But we’ve learned through living and telling our story to view tears differently. Not as signs of weakness, but a necessary part of the river of life, the flow that gets us through the pain and makes us stronger. Weather-beaten, yes, but stronger.
The saltwater that forms part of the title of this blog is of course a reference to tears, to the bitter losses we and others have suffered. But tears have value. As a British man, I have spent too many years crying in silence and solitude, as seldom as possible, sheepish and ashamed of their appearance on my (otherwise cherubic) face. But sod that! Sod Britishness, sod repression, sod humiliation!
For now, I’d rather be open about my grief, open my tear-filled eyes and in so doing open my heart and my mouth to share that painful story with those who are willing to hear it. When that happens, other stuff tends to spill out as well. At first, usually, it’s snot, to be honest. Burping if you’re really unlucky.
But we’ve discovered such joy (different to happiness – deeper) and such goodness in sharing our story with others. Sweet things have followed. We’ve been privileged enough to sit and cry with friends through the horrors of their miscarriage. We’ve had colleagues, old classmates, family members open up to us about the losses they’ve incurred, and we’ve seen wounds begin to heal as mouths are opened and stories tentatively told. Even starting this blog has put us in touch with strangers who have started to tell their stories. That’s got to be worth risking a burp or two.
There are few sweeter things in life for me than fine wine. Visiting the wineries of Sonoma Valley in California gave me an acute appreciation of the care, passion and patience that goes into tending a vineyard from seed to bottlecap. A good bottle of cabernet sauvignon shared with friends often leads to laughter, tears and yes, burping. I would rather have a life that’s like a fine wine shared than one which keeps the cork in the bottle, in fear that anything ugly comes out.
So I’ll take the tears, risk the burps and drink the wine of life.
Drink it all, even the dregs.