A tale of tears

Jesus wept.

-- John 11:35

I don't know why our culture condemns crying. It is a very natural thing to do. God put tear ducts in our eyes for a reason.

We cry, literally, for help. Of course, taking my cues from culture, I used to tell my daughters, "Don't cry, it'll be all right," too stupid to realize they were crying to make it all right. It took my youngest to set me straight when she said, "Sometimes I need to cry!" Touché, Courtney Grace.

We cry, sometimes, in appreciation of people or things that touch our hearts. It is a tribute, of sorts. Tears well up in my eyes when certain hymns are sung, and almost always at Communion. Certain singers bring tears, as long as no one is looking. The now-silenced voices of Glenn Frey and Dan Fogelberg, and the living voices of Emmylou Harris and Jackson Browne choke me up, sometimes, if it's the right song.

We cry to lament loss, especially of good and godly people we have loved and lost. The first good cry I ever remember having was at age 10, at the death of my grandmother, who for whatever reason had made me the apple of her eye. I cried when I lost my parents, choking up even as I preached their funerals. I've cried at not a few church members' funerals, too. I even cried when Atticus, the world's greatest dog, was put to sleep in the vet's office.

We cry for heartache, sometimes so lonesome we could, you know, cry. A bad breakup, an unwanted divorce, painful rejections, and loss of opportunity can make us weep. One of my worst cries was as a senior in high school. You must understand I grew up in South Georgia, where the hospital gives you a football when a boy is born. After playing from age 6, I was a highly recruited quarterback entering my senior year. I broke my collarbone after a tough hit in the first week of the season, then reinjured it when I tried to come back. In the X-ray room my dad held this big boy crying like a little baby.

We cry for joy, sometimes. These are wonderful times of weeping, aren't they? That's why Andrea and I cried at the toasts offered during our rehearsal dinner, why I wept when my first daughter Christie came into the world, while watching my only offspring who could hit a ball, Ashley, blast a grand slam. Victory can bring tears, which means I may shed one or two if the Atlanta Falcons ever win the Super Bowl.

When "Jesus wept," it was for all of those reasons and more. He hurt, for the deceased Lazarus and the living Martha and Mary were so close to Him. He could hear Lazarus' voice in His head and the sisters' in His ears. They were together at Lazarus' funeral, mourning the very real loss.

Behind the Lord's tears was the pain of loss, but also a surety of victory. He knew what He was about to do. He spoke the truth when "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.'" Then Jesus said, "Do you believe this?" Do you?

I don't know why even church culture condemns crying. I knew a Pastor who was fired by his congregation. He was sound in character and doctrine, hardworking and helpful to others. But, he would always cry during his sermons, and his parishioners got tired of it. When I returned from a study tour of Israel, I could scarcely get through the Gospel reading without choking up. Thankfully, my church at the time did not mind.

My daughter Emily told me after she'd grown up that she'd never seen me cry out loud. At first I felt like a manly man. But when I thought about it, I was a little ashamed, for no one should be ashamed to cry. It is a very natural experience. It is a very Christ-like experience.

Crying shows others what matters most to you. People, eternal souls, mattered most to Christ. Jesus showed this in many ways, not the least of which was crying. Don't ever be ashamed to follow Him.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].

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