by Virginia Knowles
There is no shame
When teardrops fall as healing rain
Our Comforter who sees and knows
Collects them all in his bottle.
Do they mingle there with ancient tears of long ago?
Or far-flung ones around the globe?
I do not know, nor do I always know why I cry
Just that there is a deep welling up inside
Or perhaps a thorn prick of conscience
Or an oozing scrape of disappointment
Or a dagger thrust of insult
Or even the gashing grief of death
As blood flows, so do tears
But they are wiped away
By One who also binds up wounds.
But not from indulgent self-pity
Or twisting others to comply
Cry to wash the soul
Turn the heart with fresh resolve
A firmness born from tenderness
Cry for justice, mercy
Mourn for suffering that is not your own
To hear the groans and seek to console
With the comfort you yourself have received
There is a blessing in brokenness
Do cry: then go on in love and joy and peace.
Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? ~ Psalm 56:8
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. ~ Revelation 21:1
Why cry? Why not?
There are things to cry about out there! Our own circle of friends and family has been recently touched by cancer diagnoses, financial crises, divorces, wayward children, suicide, substance abuse, and other heart-wrenching situations. I see so much pain around me, and a lot of times I can’t do anything about it except for pray for them and feel it with them, sometimes with tears. But I do try to do something tangible when I can, like give plenty of hugs, lend an encouraging book, send a helpful web link, or bring them a meal.
And then there is the world at large. Several weeks ago I substitute taught a 5th-6th grade history class at our Providence Home Educators co-op. To supplement the text book chapter about Germany in World War II, I brought in a poignant and haunting picture book called The Harmonica by Tony Johnston about a boy in a concentration camp. I warned the class that I would choke up and cry at the end, as I always do when reading it to my own children, and I certainly held true to my word. Later, when I told our friend Gary about this, he wrote, “Your crying after reading the book to the kids was no doubt a great gift to them. I remember very few lectures in seminary, but one in particular stands out. A history professor gave a lecture on early Christian martyrs, ending with Tertullian’s famous phrase, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” He began weeping–something he had never done in class before–and had to immediately leave the room. That stuck with me–this isn’t academic, it was real, and it SHOULD move us.” And that is exactly what I was trying to impress upon my students! We must be affected by what is going on (or has gone on) in the world around us. The holocaust is just one example, and six million is not a mere number! Each victim had a name, a face, a story. (I have written more on the holocaust a little later in the newsletter.) We all have stories. And we all should cry over injustice – and do something about it when we can. Persecution against Christians is still raging on around the world. Perhaps if “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” those seeds are best watered by the tears of God’s saints! That would be us!
My oldest daughter Mary and I were talking recently, sitting on my bed late at night. I was heart-weary and in tears, and she spoke such sweet words of comfort and encouragement to me. On the cusp of graduating with a journalism degree with a minor in history, she also thanked me for teaching her to think deeply about the issues of the larger world and not just sheltering her in our four walls. Isn’t part of home schooling teaching our kids to care in their hearts and then with their hands? It is not always pretty, but it is worth the effort. You will learn something, too, I promise.
And sometimes we do cry just for ourselves. That is OK, too, as long as we don’t get too mired in our emotions or use tears to manipulate others. I feel embarrassed to cry in public, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing it much more frequently than I would like – usually because I am tired, hormonal, overwhelmed or keenly seeing my failures to love others as I should. But I remind myself that other folks are probably relieved to know they aren’t the only ones who struggle with their emotions. And there is usually someone around to console me when I feel like a total fool. It’s OK to be real.
I love the music of Sara Groves, though I didn’t “get” what she was trying to sing about when Thad first gave me her CD All Right Here many years ago. I just bought her newer release Add to the Beauty, and the song “Just Showed Up for My Own Life” really affirms my thoughts on our emotions — things I have been trying to communicate, less poetically, for the past year or so. Perhaps you might relate to some of the words (taken from the middle of the song):
I’m going to live my life inspired
Look for the holy in the common place
Open the windows and feel all that’s honest and real until I’m truly amazed
I’m going to feel all my emotions
I’m going to look you in the eyes
I’m going to listen and hear until it’s finally clear and it changes our lives
There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real
And I just showed up for my own life
And I’m standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright
Note: I bought this in a dual sided CD/DVD format from Christian Book Distributors for $5, but when it came, I found it was in the wrong format for transferring to my MP3 player. I also tried buying & downloading songs individually (music downloads) but they were still in that WMA format. I may just buy the regular CD if I can determine that it is recorded in the correct format for my MP3, which is usually the only way I listen to music. I guess I won’t cry about it, either.
Do cry, do feel, do live!