The Gift of Tears

Jesus wept. ~ John 11:35

Tears are agents of resurrection and transformation; they can raise the dead. Such tears are surely a gift. ~ Alan Jones, Soul Making.

All of us will encounter grief and sorrow during our journey through life. Paradoxically, the more we love, the more we will grieve. We cannot avoid it or go around it though we try, but we must go through it. What do we do with our sorrow and pain? Are there hidden blessings, even joy, within our grief?

The doctor walked into the waiting room after the midnight hour. I knew immediately from the look on his face. “Your mother’s heart has stopped,” he said. The deep sorrow, the numbness, and the disbelief were immediate. “This must be a mistake. She was fine,” I thought. To the doctor I said, “Can I see my mom?” “Yes, you can.”

The hospital chaplain who my mom and I talked with earlier in the day met me at the door. We prayed over my mother and anointed her. He asked if I would like to spend some time alone with my mom. I said, “Yes.” I thanked my mother for giving birth to me, for her steadfast love. I thanked her for holding my hand when I was scared and celebrating the milestones of my life with me: graduation, marriage, the birth of my and Jennifer’s children. I told Mom I loved her and thanked God for her life. Mostly, I prayed silently while holding her. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death,” I prayed wistfully.

I returned home in the morning darkness. Jennifer and I held each other and tried to talk through the events of the last twenty-four hours, but nothing made any sense. The only thing that seemed real was our sadness and despair, yet the deep tears did not come. I do not know why, maybe I needed some space to make it through the night and the day.

“Jesus wept,” (John 11:35). For me this is one of the most powerful and healing verses in scripture. When Jesus sees Mary and her companions weeping over Lazarus’ death, Jesus enters their sorrow and weeps with them. His tears are not light like a soft summer rain but deep tears where his whole body trembles. “He was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (John 11:33).

Father Richard Rohr says, “The weeping mode really is a different way of being in the world.” We often try to avoid or deny our pain; Jesus accepts it and experiences it. When we weep, “we are free to feel the tragedy of things, the sadness of things” says Rohr. Deep, unabridged tears pierce our hearts. Alan Jones writes, “Tears soften the hardened and dried out soul, making it receptive and alive. Tears clear the mind. They soften, clarify, and open.”

I remember like yesterday when our young, healthy Labrador Luke died after my father passed. I had not wept. In the middle of a snowstorm, I carried Luke, wrapped in his blanket, in my arms to his grave on a hillside full of pinyon, juniper, sage, and rabbits and deer. When Luke ran through the hills, I marveled at his joy. I placed him in his grave and I “wept” as the tears came down like the winter snow. The grief, the sorrow, and the weight that I had been holding in with my father’s and Luke’s passing came pouring out.

The Reverend Alan Jones says, “Something positive is released when tears flow. They have a liberating and cathartic effect.” When we cry, we surrender to the heart of God, and we open ourselves to love. We feel more alive than ever. Life is precious, sacred, and brief; and tears move us to love, to forgive, and to heal. Tears allow us to begin letting go of our sorrow and to begin learning to love anew. It usually happens over a period of time.

Two days after my mom died, I woke up with a start. “How did this happen? She was fine. Was I a good son? Did I love enough? Why didn’t I have more time for mom?” Jennifer and I talked and questioned. Then the tears came. “They only come when we realize we can’t fix it and we can’t change it,” says Rohr. Somehow, through the Grace of God, tears start the healing and cleansing process. “They are a gift, and their fruit is always joy,” writes Alan Jones.

We often do not know what to do with our sorrow, grief, and pain. I struggle with it. Rohr defines grief as “unfinished hurt.” May we spend time with our pain, hold it and learn from it. And, when the tears come, and they always do, may we let them flow and may we enter new life. May our tears be “agents of resurrection and transformation.”

Blessings and peace,


Posted in Meditations.