I have a tear bottle.
It is fragile, small, long-necked, and vulnerable. My friend, John Haines, of many missionary travels, gave it to me. I use it to remind me of the scripture “You have collected all my tears in your bottle. (Psalm 58:6) Can you even imagine the tear storage system God needs to catalog, preserve, and warehouse our tears? I can’t. While I have never collected my own tears, the tear bottle is simple reminder of the greater truth that God knows every grief, loss, reversal, hurt, and depressive sadness. He sees the tears that don’t make it down our faces, the ones we shed in our hearts. He knows the pains that hurt so deeply and so often, we can’t generate tears for them.
While the seasons of life include times to cry, crying alone can be a lonely, isolated, unsupported feeling. Many prefer it that way, especially if they connect tears to weakness. But God reminds us that we cry alone in ignorance. God, with the unrestrained love of a watchful parent hovers beside anyone bent over by tears.
Many emotions produce tears: anger, embarrassment, fear, insecurity, as well as physical or emotional pain. My mother called tears “healers.” She had not read the scientific studies that supported her claim. She simply knew from experience that tears can wash away the debilitating part of the pain and prepare you to move forward.
It is interesting to me that in this review of seasonal life, crying comes before grieving. We have all heard someone say, “I haven’t cried about it yet.” Tears can unstop something deep inside to open up a passage for dealing with some loss or pain or deep emotion. Deny them access to that place at your own peril. Healing requires that you go deep to the source of the pain. Many times, tears wash away what has clogged your willingness to access, review, and deal with issues.
As our daughter’s life was leaking out, as we saw her sunken eyes, set jaw, pursed lips, slowed steps, and very few smiles; we cried. But we never cried alone. God, with tender presence and whispered grace, caught every tear. He spoke no words to stop our tears because He knew they opened and cleansed and helped us re-center our lost equilibrium.
A time to cry should become a healing time.
A time to cry allows waves of unsettling, unproductive emotions to congeal inside the brine of tears and find their exit outside of our bodies. Don’t stop them. When you know it is time to cry, use those tears to bring some form of healing, some new perspective, some tiny seed of motivation that will help you move forward.
And if you have the privilege of being with another person emptying their hidden reservoir of tears, take your cue from God’s sensitive and time-proven model --just be the presence that changes this emptying time from isolated despair to a companioned moment.
Then, pray that someone is near you when you need a tear catcher.