There’s a great quote from Frederick Buechner about tears and it goes like this:
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 summoning you to where, if you soul is to be saved, you should go next.
Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark
Over the last twenty years of counseling with folks, I’ve heard hundreds of folks proclaim the same thing:
“I’m not a crier.”
Sometimes it’s said with pride, sometimes as a matter of fact, and often, it is an apology. But I never believe it. I take my time, turning over rocks, looking in long forgotten closets, and opening up old suitcases.
Usually, the tears show up.
I love being right.
Enter my eldest son Hunter.
Last weekend, he had his first photography exhibition at the Nashville Art Crawl. His show was titled “The Funeral of Akaki.” The photographs showed Akidi’s family and community gathered for her funeral and burial. Accompanying the photographs were poems he’d written about grief and sorrow.
I listened to folks as they walked through the exhibition.
Some thought it was depressing and headed immediately to the pet photographer in the next booth, which was quite a happy place. But others stood quietly, like they had been to the funeral themselves.
They stared into the weeping eyes of her friends and at the casket deep in the grave. They found a communion and somehow participated in the loss.
There are so many other photographs he could have shown us from his year in Uganda.
I’ve seen them: waterfalls, elephants, sunrises and sunsets, flowers, and laughing children. But he decided to show us loss.
What’s up with that?
I have this little theory. (I have LOTS of little theories!) And the theory is this: I believe that deep down in all of us, there runs this stream of sorrow full of losses, big and small, betrayals, breakups, deaths, and failures.
Admit them or not, they’re there.
And now and then, we see a movie, we hear a song, we witness an event and we find tears forming in our eyes. (This happens even to non-criers.)
When that happens:
- Pay attention to the tears.
- Follow them to the river.
- Grieve profusely.
- Be comforted. (“Blessed are those who mourn. For they will be comforted.”)
Did you catch that? Better.
So whether you are grieving and the tears are close and frequent, or whether you’re one of those people who “never cries,” pay attention to what your tears (or lack of tears) might be telling you.
They are saying something you need to know.
Who knowing tears, can be content with laughter?
They wear slowly,
a thin hosing of water, that slides
down the exposed surfaces of rocks,
smoothing them, making runnels in the hard stone,
and sometimes, moaning in the reinforcement of storm,
rushing in floods to the swelling rivers,
picking up pebbles and mud, to race them round
and round in suddenly formed deep pools.
Laughing we forget those who cannot laugh,
but weeping we make a communion.
Tears will soak us through to soil,
down into high, silent caves, where sadness
losing all its sharpness is as soft as air,
and we can bathe naked in the still waters,
sharing unashamedly with other naked folk,
the ravages that brought us there.