Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.—Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary
Maybe you’ve had the experience. You’re watching a movie, listening to some music, going for a walk at sunset, reading a book, having a special moment with someone you love, or doing something else altogether, and all of a sudden you feel deeply moved. Something about what you’re doing or experiencing in that moment connects with the deepest part of who you are. Maybe you cry.
And there’s nothing wrong with crying. Real men cry. Indeed, Jesus wept.
I had an experience recently when I was listening to music and, like Buechner says, I found myself crying “unexpected tears.” It wasn’t a hymn or worship song. It wasn’t even a Christian song. I don’t even think it had anything to do with the lyrics. It was the sheer beauty and purity of the performance. I can’t even describe it. I was surprised at how it made me feel. And this same sort of thing sometimes happens because of something I read in a book or a scene in a movie or TV show.
When I came across the above quotation, I had already been thinking about how important it is to pay attention to what moves us, what speaks to us in a specific moment, especially if we find ourselves emotional and releasing unexpected tears. As Buechner says, our tears can be a sign that God is speaking to us about what’s going on in the depths of who we are.
In his book A Time To Heal: Offering Hope to a Wounded World in the Name of Jesus, J.R. Briggs writes this:
The fact that liquid leaks out of our faces is a gracious gift from God. When we are overwhelmed or scared or scarred or saddened or beyond grateful, our physical bodies realize it is too much to handle on its own; it must be released. These are sacred moments. Theology is built into our biology . . . God designed us to release tears . . . out of our face, the most significant relational receptor on the human body.
That phrase–theology is built into our biology–is perceptive and profound.
In The Return of the King, Gandalf says that “not all tears are an evil.” And of course we know he’s right. There are tears of joy, tears of gratitude, as well as tears of sadness. Tears come from the deep well of the human heart when what we’re feeling can’t be contained.
And when that happens to us, it is well worth our while to pay attention to that moment. That’s all I’m trying to say.