Tears do not typically come easy to me. It’s not that I’m some kind of stalwart cynic who thinks that “grown men don’t cry.” It’s just that tears come from a place deep inside of a person. A place that men don’t often allow themselves to visit.
The tear ducts are on the surface, but the point of release is much more complicated and hidden inside the human soul.
While fighting back the pains of kidney stones this past weekend, I had a little couch time for movie watching. “The Patriot” was on. I like this movie. Seen it more times than I can count. I love the time period and the history of everything that happened during the Revolutionary War. Incredible loss. Unthinkable tragedy. Irreplaceable courage.
But it’s the scene with little Susan that gets me. And it gets me every time, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. She hasn’t spoken a word since her mother died. She seems to be afraid of her father. Withdrawn. Her father is about to leave. She pulls back. His eyes and his words plead for her to say something as he tells his family goodbye. Nothing.
He begins to ride off. She hesitates. Her bottom lip curled up and quivering. She’s five. She’s overwhelmed. The tears start to flow.
“Papa. Wait.” She runs after him. “Don’t go, Papa. I’ll say whatever you want me to say. Don’t leave me.”
Tears quietly stream down my check. The pain in my gut never produced not one tear. But this desperate little girl running after her Papa is more than I can handle.
I guess I do that because I am a father. My own girls still call me Papa. I have wept with them and for them, for all my kids, at the things that reach down into the unspeakable places of the heart. It’s a father’s job to be unafraid to weep.
Real tears, however, are different than movie tears. And real tears are unavoidable for all of us at some point.
When my parents passed away, there were tears. Quiet tears of loss and grief. Chris Tomlin’s song, “I Will Rise”, was played at my Dad’s funeral at my request. And, now, every time I play that song it strikes at a place that reminds me of the hope that drives away every tear.
“There’s a peace I’ve come to know . . .”
Even in the presence of hope, my eyes still get moist, because not all tears are tears of loss and suffering. Sometimes there are tears of joy.
Like, when my oldest daughter was about to get married. She was waiting in the park for a photo session with the wedding party. It was here that I saw her for the first time in her wedding dress. She was never more beautiful.
I came walking across the brick sidewalk to join the group, and when she saw me, when our eyes met, she immediately teared up. She was fine up until that very moment. I was fine right up until that very moment. But the tears took over. We embraced and wept together for the pure joy of being in that place together. Walking her down the aisle later was like nothing I had ever done.
Most all of life that is worth living is at some point marked by tears of one kind or another. There are times in life that shock the heck out of you. There are times that drain every ounce of emotion from the soul. We think we are ready for anything, but life turns us on our heels. You run the gambit of hurt and anger and disappointment; grief and heartache and sorrow. And, at the other end of the spectrum there is delight, discovery and triumph; struggle, victory, and renewal. Each has its own brand of tears.
The best line of the movie weekend was from “Two Popes”. Two old men confronting each other about their lives and their private tragedies and their conflicting ambitions. One weeps for his failures. His friend comforts him:
“Life is full of tears. But if there must be tears, let them be tears of joy.”
Joyful tears are the tears that heal. They grow out of valiant effort and unrelenting resolve to see the best and to love the best in life. They spring forth from the depth of a hope and forgiveness that begs to be heard.
We all weep. Life requires it. But joy is never absent in the tears. It is, in fact, the only thing that makes the tears bearable.
King David was right.
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”