I recently started following a blog called Walking to China, the stories of an American family who moved to China with their daughter. The father teaches English as a second language, and the family is in the process of adopting a Chinese boy.
This weekend, the post was entitled “Tears,” and it included this quote by Author Frederick Beuchner:
“Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are but, more often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is ummoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.”
I pondered Beuchner’s words, and asked myself what are the things that bring me to unexpected tears.
Certain movies and television shows.
Sappy movies and television shows.
Hallmark Hall of Fame commercials.
Stories of heroism and sacrifice.
Stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Memories of emotional times.
Someone experiencing profound emotional or spiritual pain.
Stories about the Holocaust.
The Olympic Stadium scene in my novel Dancing Priest (I’ve read it hundreds of times, and the tears never fail.) (I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this.)
Certain music, like Michael W. Smith’s version of Agnus Dei.
Certain moments when I’m writing, when the emotion overwhelms.
Beuchner says tears, unexpected tears, are telling you about “the secret of who you are.” Did you ever think of yourself as a secret?
And more: that God is speaking through unexpected tears of the mystery of where you’ve come from and where you should go next.
The secret of who you are.
The mystery of where you’ve come from.
The summons of where you should go next.
And then I think: Jesus wept.
At the tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus wept, and it appears to have been unexpected. If Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, why did he cry?
Perhaps he wasn’t crying for Lazarus.
The secret of who he was.
The mystery of where he came from.
The summons of where he should go next.
Illustration: Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity), by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890; Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands.
There are certain movies that always brings tears. The scene in Field of Dreams when he realizes it is his father and he asks to play catch ALWAYS chokes me up.
This ending ... powerful.
Sometimes during our home church opening prayer tears stream down my face. And snot too. So it's a good thing people's heads are bent and their eyes are closed so I can pick my way through rocking chairs and outstretched legs to find a tissue.
I cried when the Sears man called and told us to come pick up our fridge. We hadn't ordered a fridge (couldn't afford one). He said "come anyway." I said "no." And he finally told me that someone in the community bought one for us. I started an ugly cry. And he said, "Ma'am, it's okay, I did the same thing earlier today when they came in and paid for it."
I tend to cry more at sports movies than any others, especially the conclusions of The Miracle, The Rookie, & Remember the Titans.
And of course your book brings tears, but it nicely brings laughter too.
Good post, Glynn.
Tears give us a chance to show we're human.
Tears are the words the heart cannot express.
I've read that quote 5 times already this morning and I've finally saved it for further use.
The ending… so good! Great post.
Lovely post, Glynn. And I've always loved that quote by Buechner (and many, many others by him, as well). The work I'm doing in spiritual direction training is with the charismatic renewal branch of the Catholic church and they view tears as a charism, a gift of the Spirit.
I've always viewed them that way as well, most especially when they come in worship, in the appreciation and wonder of beauty of any kind, in shared suffering with others.
I saw a brief snippet of a science show on PBS years ago where they did a chemical analysis of tears following injury of any kind, either physical or emotional, and compared them with tears shed while cutting onions. Those that come from injury or empathy contain toxins that the onion-rendered ones do not.
I took this as a kind of confirmation that tears are God's gift to us, a way to cleanse ourselves, on all levels. Buechner's quote and our wonderings about it add such lovely levels to that idea. Secrets, indeed. The mystery of our faith...
This is a beautiful post, Glynn. I especially was touched by the shortest verse in the Bible: Jesus wept. I always felt that He didn't weep for Lazarus, since He knew what He would do, but for the whole heaviness of the human burden.
I've felt secret for years; I think it's more natural for women to feel so, perhaps, than for men--dare I say. I think it's part of our God-given nature and perhaps part of our culture. Of all people, Bruce Springsteen captures this in the song "Secret Garden".
God bless you this week.
Thanks for featuring our family blog! We have shed many tears over our foster son. We have been petitioning to have listed as "adoptable" for almost two years and it's finally come true. We will not be the adoptive family as we are in our fifties and he needs a younger family. That day is coming soon when we hand him off and those tears will be of pain and joy.
I love your explanation for Jesus' tears at Lazarus's grave. I'll have to ponder that.
I also cry at "the summons of where you should go next," although I never realize that's what it is at the time. It happened during Sunday's sermon. Still not sure what it means.
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