I stood on a bus last week, my cell phone pressed up to my ear. I listened intently to the woman on the other end of the line. And then she handed the phone off to my mom. Mom came onto the phone and was adamant about moving to a new nursing facility. Even though she has been struggling some with her health this summer, this came completely out of left field. I finished the conversation with my mom and hung up the phone. The minute I hung up the phone, tears began welling up in my eyes. I turned away because I was on a bus filled with my youth as well as several other youth and adult leaders as we were returning from the ELCA National Youth Gathering. Immediately my youth and several of the other adult leaders whispered the words “Are you okay?” to me.
A moment of peer vulnerability! I didn’t expect the tears to flow, but they did.
As a child, I was a very emotional child. I cried often. In fact, I have even been known to cry at Hallmark commercials. As I have grown up, those tears often have found their way into my eyes yet again. Those holy tears are a part of me that I wish didn’t come so easily. Yet I can count the numerous times that my eyes have filled with tears. More times than I care to even admit. And so often, those tears appear at the most inopportune times.
Yet those tears are so much a part of who I am. They are like the waters of Baptism that continually flow over me and cleanse me. Those waters also always call and claim me as one of God’s children. God has gifted me with this gift of holy tears. Yet so often I want to force the tears back down. I want to hold them back and not share that part of me. I don’t want to break open that piece of who God has called me to be!
But what I have come to realize is is that God has gifted me with this gift, because in sharing this gift with others, we realize we aren’t alone. Some of the holiest times in my life are times when I have sat and shared tears with those that are near and dear to me….and also with those that have been complete strangers. In those moments, I am reminded of one of the shortest verses in the Bible “Jesus wept.” Jesus wasn’t afraid to weep. Jesus wasn’t afraid to shed his own tears. And Jesus keeps track of all of our tears as well. In Psalm 56 verse eight, we read “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle (ESV).”
Jesus has kept every one of the tears I have wept and put them in his bottle. It is so easy to think that God doesn’t see our tears. But the truth is that God sees every one of our tears. God wants us to know that we are not alone. God wants us to open up to those moments of vulnerability and like a waterfall cascading down, God wants us to release our tears and let them shower God with our tears.
Last week on that bus and many other times throughout my life, it has felt like my tears are paralyzing and drowning me. Yet God wants me; wants all of us to know that our tears are a gift from him to us. God collects every tear we shed and places them in the bottle of grace, forgiveness, hope and love. So the next time you feel those tears welling up in your eyes, simply let them come, knowing that God collects them and accepts them from us in all of our grief and brokenness.