There’s a scene in the 1987 movie, Broadcast News, where actress Holly Hunter, in her role as a TV news producer, methodically goes through a morning routine of unplugging from her phone, placing a tissue box in front of her, and then begins what would seem to be inconsolable sobbing for a couple of minutes. When she’s done she simply wipes her tears away, plugs her phone back in, and begins her day. Have you ever allowed yourself a good, cathartic cry? Or perhaps you have been puzzled when tears come unexpectedly? And sometimes we even apologize for our tears.
I’ve been thinking about tears lately—following a discussion during one of our church small groups around a devotional titled “The Gift of Tears.” So often we try to suppress our tears, or only allow ourselves to shed them in private. Tears are complicated. They can be tied to all kinds of experiences: a time of loss or death, an experience of contriteness or confession, a fractured relationship or situation, or even in remembering the goodness of God. Try explaining the expression “tears of joy” to a child!
Next week is Holy Week. It’s a rollercoaster ride of events if you walk through the week with attention to the stories leading to Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s all too easy to skip from the seeming celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and the triumph over death that it represents. But between those events we have betrayal, desertion, pain, loneliness, and death. Why is it important to remember? Because as author Barbara Johnson once said, “We are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world.” Even though there is an assurance of hope that our faith offers, we live in the reality of a fractured world.
I believe to fully appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice, and what it means for us in the here and now, that before skipping ahead to Easter morning, we should pause in our week to acknowledge the suffering and sacrifice of Christ. To me it means that because of that suffering, God experienced human suffering in a way that was a sort of unveiling. He fully and completely knows my pain, my loneliness, my suffering…and yours…and that is a comfort to me. He loves us and walks with us in the darkest of days.
Before Mary Magdalene knew Christ had risen, she was weeping at the cross, and then at the tomb. Minister and author Trevor Hudson writes beautifully about this: “The longer I think about Mary’s tears, the more I recognize the need for her to cry. She needed those tears to express the deep grief of her heart. They were necessary to ease the intensity of her inner pain. The were necessary to relax those raw nerves rapidly reaching the breaking point. They were necessary to lighten the weight of sorrow bearing heavily down upon her spirit. They were necessary for the processes of healing and transformation to begin. Indeed, I believe that without her tears, Mary may have failed to recognize the shining figures inside the tomb. After all, tears can help us to see things differently. They clear the dust from our eyes and give us fresh insight and vision.”
So before brushing our tears aside—whether literally or metaphorically—let’s allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to consider what those tears might be telling us. God honors our lament, and walks with us in it.