Tonight as I burrowed into a heaping plate of yummy salad topped with blue cheese dressing and ketchup, yummier still, I had the great privilege of listening to a dear friend share her heart. I waited for the tears to spill forth, considering she was sharing painful-beyond-description experiences, but they never left her eyes. I saw the tears sit still – ever so still – but never fall. I am sure they had been trained just-about-forever to stay put, for so many people it seems have been taught by the world to pull-ourselves-up-by-our-bootstraps, tuck our tears away, keep a stiff upper lip, plaster a smile on our faces, suck it up, etc., need I say more?
I grew up in a family that taught, and demonstrated, that tears were not to be cried, and certainly not shown. Tears, if they ever came, were meant to be shut away behind closed doors – the doors of bedrooms and the doors of hearts with thick, sturdy walls. It has taken me decades to learn to let the tears fall, and even now they do not come easily, not in public anyway.
I was trained so carefully to not cry in a variety of ways that I have even had a challenging time bringing my tears before the Lord. I could not have been more surprised when I discovered a seemingly little known scripture in the Bible that not only has validated the tears I have shed, but has given me hope that they have not fallen in vain.
Psa 126:5 “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
When I consider how many tears I have shed in my life thus far, I could be appalled. I have cried more than most people I know. I have cried for many reasons, but most of all over loss, rejection, abandonment, abuse, hurt, bitterness, and pity. Sometimes I thought I would never stop crying once I started. Sometimes I kept myself from starting for this reason. Sometimes I cried for short periods, other times for longer ones. Sometimes I cried in front of others, sometimes I cried by myself, and ultimately I learned I could cry before God. But never in a million years did I think that my tears could be turned into something – and something good. Even joy.
But then, the Lord turns ashes into beauty, mourning into dancing, weeping into joy, evil into good, and so very much more (there are scriptures in the Bible covering all this). The Lord is not only a Creator; he is a re-Creator. He can take the worst of things and make good come from it. Yes, even tears. Even pain. Even grief. Even loss. Even rejection. Even change. Even darkness. Yes, He can bring light out of darkness. He can bring life from death. He can resurrect, repair, remake, recreate, redo, and on, and on, and on.
Even tears. If only I had been told this. If only I had been encouraged as a child to cry rather than to hold it all in. If only I had been encouraged to come out of my bedroom instead of to go hide my tears inside it. If only I had been encouraged to pour out my heart instead of to hold the tears in. If only I had been encouraged to build bridges instead of to build walls. If only I had been encouraged to share rather than to keep secrets.
If only, if only, if only I had been introduced to Jesus. The Christ. The Messiah. If only.
But alas, I was not. But the tears I have shed, they are no longer merely tears. They are no longer just drops of water falling to the ground to be trod upon. They are no longer waterways, rivers, inlets, creeks, or oceans and seas hidden behind walls.
Tonight I found joy in the tears I have sown in my lifetime. Tonight I did not just enjoy my yummy salad. Nor did I simply enjoy the company of a dear friend. Tonight I experienced the joy of having a heart full of compassion for a friend who needs to learn the same lesson I have that tears are to flow, to be shared, to be poured out, to be borne and carried by loved ones up to the Lord in prayer, in compassion, and in a listening ear – and a listening heart.
Today I was able to offer love, and friendship, and comfort, and prayer, to share the very burden, of a beloved friend with a heart that knows. A heart that has experienced. A heart that no longer lives behind walls so thick that nobody can come in, and nobody can get out. This very heart that has shed so many tears, this heart that has known the comfort of the Lord and so many brothers and sisters in Christ, and even the comfort of those that do not know Him, this heart was able to be there for another.
The Bible says the Lord comforts us that we might comfort others. I do not need to hide my tears and heart behind closed doors anymore. The Lord lives inside my heart, and He has provided me with an army of angels – human and not – to help me through my times of tears. And He has given me a quiet strength, a deep peace, a hunger to love and serve Him, a desire to be there for others, and an ability to experience the joy of not drowning in my own tears – but instead seeing how out of my tears He has brought me to a deeper compassion for the world around me.
My tears have been turned into something worth reaping – a deeper love for humanity, and a deeper desire to love and serve the Lord and my fellow man, woman, child, and animal with a deeper understanding, a bigger heart, a greater love. For the Lord, and for His creation. All, all, yes, all, for His glory.
Isa_61:3 “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
There are times I feel I will never stop falling short, not even for a moment. Today I was embarrassed to lose my temper in front of a friend as I endured still more exhaustion – so much of it lately – and lost my patience with the seemingly endless needs and demands of the dogs in my care. Yet the Lord forgave me, and my friend forgave me. And the Lord took me a step farther than repentance and forgiveness. He took me to a place I could not only forgive, but I could give – of His love, His mercy, His compassion, and His comfort. Perhaps my falling short allowed my friend to see enough of my humanness that she could be comfortable letting me see hers – in her case, her tears. And the Lord reminded me I do not only fall short. I also stand up after I fall – with a heart desiring to love, and to serve. To love with His love, and to serve for His glory. For Him, yes.
Is there someone in your life who needs comfort? Will you encourage them to cry before you? Will you encourage them to pour out their heart? Will you comfort them with the comfort you have been given? Or are you the one still hiding behind closed doors, behind thick, sturdy walls? Are you the one that needs to learn the lesson of sowing tears – of bringing them before the Lord, and before the human – and not – angels He sends your way? Where do you stand with tears, or where do you lie fallen with them? Do you need comfort? There is one comforter above all others. The God of all comfort, as the Bible calls Him. And when He gives you comfort, remember. It is not for you alone. Be open to the one, and to the ones, who need, or will need comfort. Will you be the one to give them comfort as you have been given? Do not forget to be comforted, and do not forget to comfort. Remember, tears are not only to fall. They are to be sown.
2Co_1:3 “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;…”