To cry is to admit vulnerability. And somehow — unfortunately — has the act of weeping in our competitive, dog-eat-dog world become for many a sign of a weak, inadequate disposition to life and faith? Young boys, especially, have been taught, “Don’t cry!”, right?
In pastoral ministry, we need to be careful when people are grieving and crying for a loss not to rush to excuse their behavior — which really only betrays our discomfort. We need to be careful not to hurry the grieving to accept some ‘silver lining’ of any devastating situation. When resurrection is proclaimed prematurely, harm can be done.
Preaching on the Gospel texts during these first Sundays after Pentecost, I notice a common behavior on the part of those who receive the gifts of healing and forgiveness:
When her only son died the widow from Nain must have wept for Jesus to say, “Do not weep”; and the woman wept as she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7). The ‘sinful’ woman here, you will notice, does not ask for forgiveness. But her confessing heart says it all. No words are necessary.
Not only in these texts but throughout the Scriptures the faithful people of God cry. Crying is the body’s way of confessing the truth about ourselves and our situation. The biblical form is called, the Lament. In our lament, we openly raise our cries to God when we are sad, angry, defeated, suffering, lost. A primary example of a lamenting context was the Babylonian Exile — when in the Hebrew Scriptures we read about the people of God being ousted from their land and their temple, and taken to work and live on the banks of the Euphrates far away from home.
Jesus himself wept over Jerusalem in the days leading to his arrest and crucifixion (Luke 19:41). Jesus wept over the death of his dear friend Lazarus, to the point forming one of the shortest verses in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Jesus cries. Would we dare rush to Jesus when he weeps and say, “Don’t cry. It’ll be alright.” It seems to me we need to let Jesus weep.
Early Christians called it the gift of tears. The wisdom of the ages points to the healing power of tears, a cleansing of the inner life. The desert monk, Abbot Pimen, said: “Weep, there is no other way to perfection” (p.59, Paul Harris, “Frequently Asked Questions about Meditation, the Path of Contemplative Prayer”).
Our faith and our traditions of prayer that validate the act of crying, weeping and lamenting offer us a path to healing, hope and wholeness. I pray for a vision of community where Christians are honest with themselves in their faith and in their pain, who seek authenticity in their relationship with God and others, who are not afraid to be themselves before God, even to be vulnerable to others in confession.