As she stood in that familiar station in the kitchen, stirring the filling for the Thanksgiving pies, she could feel the tears welling up, then meandering down her cheek and then finally dropping into the pie mix. She vainly smiled thinking, “Well, there’s some of the salt I needed to add anyway.” The stirring of the pie filling stirred the memories of the dear ones who were no longer there to give direction, talk and share in the special day.
The holidays are wonderful times. But if we’re being honest, as the years go on, their effect is a combination, much like life, of laughter and tears. The holidays are a concentrated version of this – we feel the laughter and tears more intensely. The awareness of loss and vacancy is higher, appropriately so, during the holidays.
Whether it’s a holiday or just a regular day, it’s not just cheeks and pie fillings that are baptized and seasoned by tears, blouses and shirts, letters, pillows, keyboards, cups of coffee and more.
In addition to my own tears, by virtue of being a pastor and a friend, I have witnessed a lot of tears. I love to wipe away my daughter Madelyn’s tears in part because that’s a good thing to do but also because it reminds me of the Bible verse, “And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 21:4).” I want to do that for everyone – for the tears of failure, tears of fear, tears of grief, tears of loneliness, tears of powerlessness, tears of fatigue, tears of rejection and more. I don’t know, maybe I have known a lot of sad people; I mean, it’s definitely part of my mission to be in places and be with people who need comfort and strength. On a lighter note, I think that some people avoid talking to me because there are probably going to be some tears
If you think about it, tears are very interesting. The Bible acknowledges in multiple places and ways, that tears are a part of the faith journey. In addition to the promise of having them all wiped away, it talks about them as food during sad times, Jesus weeping at the loss of friend Lazarus, tears as repentance and grief over sin and exile; but also tears turning to joy (Psalm 126) and even the very comforting, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle (wineskin). Are they not in your book (Psalm 56:8)?”
Another thing that makes tears interesting is that they reveal truth. As one friend said, “Tears are truth. Whatever the reason for the tears – joy, sadness, fear – whatever is causing the tears, it is a true experience.” And that friend was right. When we face the truth of our lives, tears often flow; when we read, watch or witness something that is truthful, tears often flow. Think of your favorite book or movie and how you react to it. I know as soon as Ray Cansella in the film Field of Dreams looks over and realizes that the catcher removing his equipment is his father, my eyes are already tearing – because there is beauty and truth in the pieces of life coming together and in reconciliation. Or when I am driving and I am switching radio stations and the song Wind Beneath My Wings comes on and reminds me of my Mom and I fight back the tears – because of the truth of our relationship and the grief. Or when I read or listen in the news about someone overcoming the odds or surviving a crisis or trial – because of the truth that God gives us strength we can’t even fathom until it’s needed.
Have you ever noticed that the some of the most blessed, sacred, and wonderful things in our lives have come during or after the tears? Think about the hopes and dreams that have come after tears. Think about the strength and renewal that has come after the tears. Think about the clarity and focus that has followed after our tears. Am I right?
It’s no coincidence that Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” As much as tears of fear, grief, sadness and isolation are a part of our lives and a part of our faith journeys, they do not have the last word; they are not the end. In fact, they are a gateway to God’s comfort, the comfort of others, truth, clarity, renewal and much more.
And, how about this – what is left when the tears dry or are wiped away? Salt, right? Remember what Jesus said, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be the salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth (Matthew 5:13 MSG).” If and when we are ready, God wants to convert and transform the wounds and tears of our lives into healing and hope for us and for others. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” The most authentic witnesses and people of faith are the ones who have endured, who have hung on through the tears and who have loved others and offered hope out of their brokenness – “seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.”
Maybe your tears have been “seasoning” parts of your life today – because of grief, loss, anxiety, despair, isolation, futility or another; but I want you to be comforted knowing that they are real, they are the truth, that God knows them and has compassion for you, that these tears are a path to true joy and serving others, and that ultimately they will be wiped away by God himself.
Rev. Christopher B. Wolf
Christopher B. Wolf is the author of Giving Faith a Second Chance: Restarts, Mulligans and Do-Overs (2007) and With You Every Step of the Way (September, 2011).
“It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.” N.T. Wright