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Sweet Tears

I’m really tired lately. FYI. It’s irrelevant.

Oh crying. It’s a strange thing. I don’t really want to talk about the angry, whiny, frustrated, helpless, or purely sad sort of tears. I find the tears of joy and hope and letting go of the past to be far more beautiful. I’ve had some beautiful tears lately. Then I thought a little about tears and how often they come in Scripture, and they aren’t just for sorrow and mourning. It can be such a joyful, peaceful, and freeing thing to weep a little bit.

Jacob, after stealing the inheritance of his father from his older brother, ran from home to his uncle Laban in order to remove himself from the indignance of Esau and to find a wife that was deemed honorable. Surely it was a fearful journey for Jacob, wondering if his brother would kill him, and nervous about finding a relative that he found desirable. When he arrived and saw a woman he immediately longed for and found beautiful, and then found out she was Laban’s daughter, all he could do was kiss her and weep (Genesis 29:11). It was a moment of peace as he ended his journey and arrived in a safe place, finding exactly what he was looking for.

In Genesis 33:4 Jacob approaches his brother Esau for the first time since he ran away from him in fear and Esau runs to Jacob while he is in the middle of his obsequious bowing and embraces him. We don’t know why exactly, but they both wept at this point. It was probably a lot of things. The brothers hadn’t seen eachother for a while and missed eachother. Jacob felt the relief of not being attacked by the brother he stole the inheritance from. And certainly the warm love coming from the embrace of Esau. Esau was glad that he was finally allowed to have more than just forgiveness for his brother, but reconciliation. Whatever they were feeling, it wasn’t a sad moment. It was one of deep positive emotion.

The book of Ezra has some of the most beautiful tearful moments in Scripture. In 3:13, the foundations of the temple were relaid after way too many years of exile and a temple of ruins. As this was happening, “no one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping.” It was one of those emotionally loaded moments. So beautiful. We’re left to imagine how people felt in this moment. I imagine, given the history of Israel, that it was a moment of deep sorrow as people remembered the destruction that fell on the once great city – the center of YHWH. Yet, there had to be incredible joy in the middle of this sorrow. How much hope must have filled them as they saw the place where God resides begin its reemergence! The tears are right at this moment of transition between sorrow and joy, regret and hope, exile and return. The joy and the tears are all a part of this same moment. And the tears are indicative of the same level of happiness as the shouts of joy.

At another point in Ezra is an example of what might be the most frequent tears of the Bible, those of repentance. It’s another moment of life transition that involves both significant hope and joy as one looks toward the future, as well as contriteness and sorrow for things done in the past. In Ezra 10:1, one man was praying and confessing, and as he was doing so more and more people kept coming and weeping around him, crying for their sins and confessing them. They were so desperate to give over to God what they had been holding inside. Jeremiah has a beautiful description of repentance, “They will come to me with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father” (31:9). The act of repentance as pictured here begins with tears of sorrow, but it becomes such a moment of joy because God brings them back to Himself and reroutes their journey to sources of life and easy terrain, fathering them the whole way. Beautiful tears of repentance.

I have no real tie in to any of this. There isn’t a strong connection between paragraphs or exhortation or insight or developed ideas. I think I just found it interesting how little I cry and how many different things there are to cry about. And as tears come lately that mark emotional transitions, I want to feel solidarity with others who have done this crazy life too. Perhaps you found something that ignited the mind or heart a bit anyway. I know I’d like to cry everyday because of something wonderful that happens. Here’s a brief prayer I guess: May we cry when we need to, and may our tears glimmer as they roll down our cheeks to meet our smile.


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