The Mystery of Tears

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

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 next.
~Frederick Buechner

I’m not paying close enough attention if  I’m too busy looking for kleenex.  It seems the last couple weeks I have had more than ample opportunity to find out the secret of who I am, where I have come from and where I am to be next, and I’m loading my pockets with kleenex, just in case.

It mostly has to do with welcoming our children and their friends back home for the holidays to become a full out noisy messy chaotic household again, with lots of music and laughter and laundry and meal preparation.  It is about singing grace together before a meal and choking on precious words of gratitude.  It certainly has to do with bidding farewell again, as we began to do a few hours ago in the middle of the night and will do again in two days and again in two weeks, to gather them in for the hug and then unclasping and letting go, urging and encouraging them to go where their hearts are telling them they are needed and called to be.  I too was let go once and though I would look back, too often in tears, I knew to set my face toward the future.  It led me here, to this farm, this marriage, this family, this work, to more tears, to more letting go, as it will continue if I live long enough to weep again and again with gusto and grace.

This is where I should go next: to love so much and so deeply that letting go is so hard that tears are no longer unexpected or a mystery to me.   They release the fullness that can no longer be contained: God’s still small voice spilling down my cheeks drop by drop.  No kleenex needed.  Let it flow.


4 thoughts on “The Mystery of Tears

  1. Once again, beautiful woman, you have struck a chord in my heart of memories and in my soul. Buechner’s insight was thoughtful; I have always liked his writings. Your comments, however, borne of lived experience, were especially poignant. This Christmas holiday was especially difficult for me. There were the usual tears at the arrivals and leavings of my three precious grandchildren from NC. Each time they leave, the tears flow the moment the door closes and they are on their way, out of my sight once again. I fear for them in this increasingly violent world where terror and death strike so randomly in everyday places and situations. I worry that they have not yet matured enough to trust and to believe that, indeed, Jesus does walk beside them and will never leave them as He has promised us. I look back on my own life and realize that I never realized His presence until after I had suffered greatly.

    This year, for the first time in many years, perhaps because I just celebrated my 80th birthday on Christmas Day, I was struck by the empty chairs in our dining room that were once filled with relatives, siblings, friends and neighbors long gone. I looked around the table and could actually visualize where each person had sat, I recalled the prayer that was always said by my father, the laughter, good-natured kidding, family history that was shared, the table piled high with good food, hand-washing a mountain of dishes and heirloom sterling in the kitchen, my father’s knockout Christmas punch that came down from two generations. All of these memories flooded back this year as never before. Perhaps it came as a potent reminder to me of the brevity of our earthly lives and a gentle warning that we need to make each day have special meaning.

    Yes, letting go IS difficult and the tears will flow, as they must. They are a necessary cleansing catharsis – a reminder, too, that one day we will be missed and the seeds that we have planted among our loved ones will one day produce a yield that will continue on to the next generation…and the next.


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