Boys, and men are not to cry. That wasn’t the message I was raised with but is definitely the message that society proclaims…and that may have been rattling around in my head a couple months ago.
On Tuesday, September 22, on our way back to the ER, I told Michelle that I was on the brink of an emotional collapse and ready to cry. And, true to my wife’s form, she told me that it was OK to cry! I know this – and while I wasn’t looking for the “OK” to cry, it definitely was the beginning of a moment of vulnerability and honesty. Scratch that. It was the beginning of my accepting that however I feel – let it come out. And then Wednesday, after spending the night in the ER again and looking at a few more nights ahead, feeling uncomfortable and in a decent amount of pain – I finally did. And yet even then I couldn’t fully cry and grieve because the procedure done earlier in the day restricted deep breathing and confined me to short bursts of inhales. So exhale on my cry, I could, breathe deeply in, I could not. I needed to cry. I needed to lament. I needed to grieve and be angry and yet I couldn’t. So there I was…crying out and yet struggling to complete my crying by breathing in. I felt angry, sad, and yet I was also on the brink of laughing because the whole thing was comical. I was allowing my feelings to come out, I was allowing myself to cry, and yet circumstances pushed against it. Go figure.
So why do I share this? I share this because I wonder how many of us are on the brink of an emotional outpouring and yet find ourselves trying to hold it in. How many of us feel we CAN’T let the tears and lament flow? We often hold things in because that’s either what “men do” (you know – we’re not to show tears as it’s pretty much written on our “man-card”) or “now is not the time” or “it’ll eventually go away” so we suppress it, hide it, ignore it, and simply move on. But should we? I’m pretty sure that “holding it all in” is not only UNHEALTHY but quite unbiblical. And while I’m not a doctor or any type of health-professional I do think I can speak of the “unbiblical” understanding. But “crying out” swims in a vast sea of scripture so let’s just look at a couple “tears” and letting it flow texts.
Revelation reminds us that God is the one who will wipe away all tears and that there will be no mourning or crying or pain (21:4). A good reminder that tears are natural for us. And a good reminder that God is the ultimate one who will wipe them away –so why not allow tears to flow NOW as you release them to him?
Two of the most powerful words in all of scripture are: Jesus wept (John 11:35). If Jesus cried I’m pretty sure that gives me permission to cry too. And while Jesus’ tears were for a different reason (his friend Lazarus had passed) his situation doesn’t mean our own cannot be expressed in tears. Emotionally, Jesus was raw, so he wept…as should we.
The psalms! There are TONS of psalms that speak of tears and crying and of being so raw and drained that nothing is left. Then what about the WHOLE BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS!? Yeah…crying is a natural response to needs. Crying is a way our bodies can exhale the pain, release the cork from that which is being built up before it explodes, and for the Christian, it’s our way of unshouldering the pain and giving the yoke to Christ.
To be honest I don’t know why Tuesday’s emotional-ness hit so hard as I’m not the type who holds things in or allows things to build up and explode – but for whatever the reason that Tuesday and Wednesday found me at the brink of emotional exhaustion and the tears just welled over. And I’m glad they did. It was a release that was needed, even while it was painful. It reminded me that all I was going through was not “normal”–and I can lament that. It reminded me that I’m human and tears are natural – regardless of what gender I am. It reminded me in that moment, through those tears, I could cry out to God, be angry with where I was, ask why it was happening, and seek his work to remove it all. But it also allowed me to release what was bubbling under the surface that I hadn’t seen. The tears, while painful, were good and needed. And so if that means I now have to turn in my “man-card” then so be it. And good luck to anyone who wants to ask Jesus to turn in his for his weeping for Lazarus (let me know how that turns out).