I am not much of a crier.
In fact, I hate crying in front of anyone, and the last time I cried more than a single tear was when I watched “Hotel Rwanda” last winter. The last time I cried (and I mean, cried) about something personal was probably the summer of 2007.
I find this fact about myself strange and uncomfortable, as I would consider myself to be more on the emotional side. To be honest, I wish I cried more as I find it incredibly cathartic and a wonderful release. But for some reason, I just don’t. I’m not sure what that says about me and my psyche, but hopefully nothing terrible.
I was comforting a friend a few weeks back, who confessed to having cried so much that she was now talking to me with red eyes and a nose full of sniffles. I’m not the best with crying people (my go-to is usually jokes or feeding them), but I did the only thing I could think of at that moment: I pulled out the Jesus card.
“You know what my advice is?” I told her. “Just cry — cry as much as you want, and cry even when you feel stupid about crying. Because crying is important. It is cathartic and beautiful and sacred — even when it feels wet and snotty and pathetic. It’s sacred and beautiful because it reminds us of our dependence on God; it reminds us that words only take us so far. We use our words to shape and control our emotions, but sometimes, there are places and parts of us that only God knows, and He meets us in those places, He understands us in those places. Crying at times might be the only language we can speak, but God understands it, even if no one else does. Jesus wept — He would sit there, head in His hands, snot running down into His beard, and just bawl. Sometimes we just need to cry because we’ve run out of words.”
Now I took this “Jesus wept” thing out of John 11, when he arrives at Mary and Lazarus’ house to find the latter dead. Scripture tells us that he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” His weeping was an act of solidarity with Mary and her family; it was His way of participating in their pain through the most basic human experience, tears.
Thinking about this, I was just sitting here tonight, eating dinner and reading Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination. This book for the most part floats somewhere above my head, but I am working hard to understand and process it; it is a small kind of victory when I can truly grasp something he writes. I came across this passage as I was munching on a roasted potato, and was struck by its message:
“Tears are a way of solidarity in pain when no other form of solidarity remains…Jesus knew what we numb ones must always learn again: (a) that weeping must be real because endings are real; and (b) that weeping permits newness. His weeping permits the kingdom to come. Such weeping is a radical criticism, a fearful dismantling because it means the end of all machismo; weeping is something kings rarely do without losing their thrones. Yet the loss of thrones is precisely what is called for in radical criticism.”
Like Jesus, I feel deeply moved in spirit and troubled by this. In fact, I feel sort of guilty (am I a “numb one?”) for not crying more. However, I don’t think Brueggemann’s point is that we should all go around opening our optical floodgates at every moment. His point is birthed out of his discussion of Jeremiah and his experience as a prophet, preparing Israel for the coming of Jesus. He wanted them to understand the grief that had befallen them as a people, as they drew away from God, and for him, his tears were his last resort.
Looking around myself, at a world that seems to always be falling to pieces again and again, I wonder if perhaps we all have become a little numb. Perhaps, like Jesus, like Jeremiah, and like so many others, we need to learn what it means to weep once again.