Tears have not always come easily to me. I remember being at my grandfather’s funeral when I was 14, feeling miserable and wishing I could cry but not being able to summon tears. It had little to do with feeling too manly: my testosterone-overload of a football coach cried before and after every game, while my incredibly sensitive and caring father has cried only once in my presence. In my late 20s, a clutch of tragedies befell people I knew well, and I found I had acquired the ability. And now I can’t stop.
These days I probably cry once a week, on average. The last time I cried was this morning, while listening to a podcast of Faust’s forgiveness talk while walking to work. I try not to mention my family in testimony meeting because it will certainly make me cry, but I do anyway. My boys love the ‘Joy to the World’ DVD (they call it ‘Mommy and Baby’), and it makes me cry, every time. In my literature classes, I cannot show the film of Of Mice and Men, and I do not read certain sections of To Kill a Mockingbird out loud. (‘Thank you for my children, Arthur.’) My grade 11s were stunned and shaken to find their hard-nosed, six-foot-five (196 cm) ogre of an English teacher choking back tears while explicating Mrs. Dalloway. (The school counselor said several of them have been to see her about the incident.)
I won’t say this is a curse. It does not hinder my life, and while men displaying emotion might make others uncomfortable, I think it’s good for me. My good wife, who cries more than me, references Marvin J Ashton whenever we talk about it:
Let us review some of these less-conspicuous gifts: the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; the gift of being able to weep; the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; the gift of avoiding vain repetition; the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgment; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost.
Is my ‘being able to weep’ a spiritual gift? I’ve always said no, it’s just a conditioned emotional response, now fairly frequent because of years of repressed emotion, etc. etc. But I have grown to appreciate Ashton’s list. (An insensitive BYU roommate called it the ‘special Olympics of spiritual gifts.’) As I’ve gotten to know people in the church better, I can see the point Ashton is making: spiritual gifts are not always about proclaiming or performing miracles, but are also about the humble exercise of faith. But I didn’t apply it to my weepiness until a few months ago.
My wife was sick so I took the twins to church by myself. I was in sacrament meeting fighting the Battle of the Fourth Row. I couldn’t wear the translation headphones so I was unable to even overhear any of the talks. At one point, while one son rested on my shoulder and the other tried to escape, I thought, ‘This is a huge waste of time. Why am I here?’
The rest hymn started. (In Finland, we don’t stand up.) It was ‘I Believe in Christ.’ I couldn’t get to a Finnish hymnbook, so I sang the English words from memory quietly to myself. And the tears came. And I knew despite everything I was in the right place.
The method by which we can hear the voice of God, feel the Grace of Christ, sense the influence of the Holy Ghost: that is a spiritual gift. I have not sought it, but I am grateful for it.
Does Ashton’s list add to a finite list, or suggest an infinite range of spiritual gifts? Are there any favorites there? Do we want to add to his list?