The first woman who ever wept was appalled at what stung her eyes and ran down her cheeks. Saltwater. Seawater. How was it possible? Hadn’t she and the man spent many days moving upland to where the grass flourished, where the stream quenched their thirst with sweet water? How could she have carried these sea drops as if they were precious seeds; where could she have stowed them? She looked at the watchful gazelles and the heavy-lidded frogs; she looked at glass-eyed birds and nervous, black-eyed mice. None of them wept, not even the fish that dripped in her hands when she caught them. Not even the man. Only she carried the sea inside her body. ~Lisel Mueller “Tears” in Alive Together
From weeping salty seeds or leaking a flood of amnion, we begin life afloat in our very own sea water pool and someday depart amid tears of grief flowing over us.
We left behind the sweet waters of the garden desperate for saline soothing and healing of our wounds.
Destined to bring salt to the rest of the world, we flavor through our flowing tears, if that’s what it takes. From the beginning, immersed in salt water, all our days we seek healing as we weep in joy and sorrow.
That’s what it takes.
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If you notice anything it leads you to notice more and more.
And anyway I was so full of energy. I was always running around, looking at this and that.
If I stopped the pain was unbearable.
If I stopped and thought, maybe the world can’t be saved, the pain was unbearable. ~Mary Oliver from “The Moths” from Dream Work
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 from A Crazy Holy Grace
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity
For the past eight days of August on our farm, we have heard loud cries from the sky, starting soon after sunrise and becoming more frequent before sunset. Every few minutes from one high tree top or another, we hear a shrill “kree” which sometimes sounds angry, too often mournful and full of pain.
These cries come from a young red-tailed hawk whose nest is emptied and whose parents have left it to fend for itself. Old enough to hunt, but not ready for that heady responsibility.
This is one unhappy bird, a fellow creature in distress, feeling abandoned in a confusing and often hostile world. I understand the distress; I felt it as well when I was young and still feel it at times now when the world feels hopelessly lost.
My new overly-vocal hawk neighbor will eventually find a home and its destiny in a new nest. Its wings and voice remain strong and are strengthening daily with constant exercise. And I will stop noticing the sting of tears in my eyes every time I hear its voice calling out its loneliness to me.
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her father had needed her to dig the potatoes and load them into burlap bags
but here she is leaving her daughter
on the campus in the city time to go we go to the parking lot
old glasses thick graying hair she is wearing a man’s shirt has to get back to the job
we stand beside her Ford and it is here she undoes the buckle of the watch and holds it out to me
my father’s watch keeping good time for him and then for her
she says she knows I will need a watch to get to class we hug and she gets in
starts the car eases into traffic no wave
the metal of the back of the watch
is smooth to my thumb and it keeps for a moment a warmth from her skin. ~Marjorie Saiser from “She Gives Me the Watch off Her Arm” from I Have Nothing To Say About Fire
When I decided to attend college out of state, to a campus I had never seen before, my mother decided she couldn’t handle the goodbye in a strange place, so sent me on a two day drive with my dad. She was a very emotional person and he wasn’t, so he got the job of dropping me off.
It was a quiet car ride with only my dad and myself together. I think we both dreaded the upcoming parting moments.
When the moment came – my things scattered chaotically about my dorm room, marijuana smoke haze filling the dorm hallway and noise everywhere with loud music and the partings of students and parents – I looked at him with foreboding and desperation at this foreign environment to which I must learn to adapt. His eyes filled with tears — the first time in 18 years I had seen him cry — and he said “you know what you are here for,” hugged me tight and turned around and left.
My father didn’t give me anything but those parting words, but they still ring in my ears every day whenever I am feeling somewhat desperate, even now fifty years later.
It was a rough start at college for me, homesick as I was, in an unsupportive unstructured dorm environment. I came home at Thanksgiving that quarter and didn’t return until the following fall. But I finished strong and never looked back. You can’t go home again, not really.
Now I know what I am here for.
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The cure for anything is salt water–sweat, tears or the sea. ~Isak Dinesen
I go down to the shore in the morning and depending on the hour the waves are rolling in or moving out, and I say, oh, I am miserable, what shall — what should I do? And the sea says in its lovely voice: Excuse me, I have work to do. ~Mary Oliver “I Go Down to the Shore”
…when he looked at the ocean, he caught a glimpse of the One he was praying to. Maybe what made him weep was how vast and overwhelming it was and yet at the same time as near as the breath of it in his nostrils, as salty as his own tears. ~Frederick Buechner writing about Paul Tillich in Beyond Words
I grew up an easy crier. Actually growing up hasn’t cured it, nor has getting older. I’m still an easy crier – a hard thing to admit especially when my tears flow at an inopportune time in a public place. These days, it is most often in church, while singing favorite hymns, but I can cry just about anywhere.
These days, simply reading the headlines warrants weeping.
It might have had something to do with being a middle child, bombarded from both directions by siblings who recognized how little aggravation it took to make me cry, or it may have been my hypersensitive feelings about …. everything. I felt really alone in my tearful travails until my formidable grandmother, another easy weepy, explained that my strong/tall/tough/nothing-rocks-him former WWII Marine father had been a very weepy little boy. She despaired that he would ever get past being awash in tears at every turn. His alcoholic father tormented him about it, wondering if he would ever learn to “man up.”
So this is a congenital condition – my only excuse and I’m sticking to that story.
A few years ago I read about how different kinds of tears (tears of joy, tears of pain, tears of grief, tears of frustration, tears of irritated eyes, tears of onion cutting) all look different and remarkably apt, when dried and pictured under the microscope. This is more than mere salt water leaking from our eyes — this is our heart and soul and hormonal barometer streaming down our faces – a visible litmus test of our deepest feelings.
I witnessed many tears every day in my clinical practice, usually not tears of joy. These were tears borne of pain and loss and rejection and failure, of hopelessness and helplessness, loneliness and anguish. Often my patients would describe having a “break down” by which they meant uncontrollable crying. It was one of the first-mentioned symptoms they wanted relief from.
Tears do come less frequently as depression lifts and anxiety lessens but I let my patients know (and I remind myself) that tears are a transparent palette for painting the desires and concerns of our heart. Dry up the tears and one dries up emotions that express who we are and who we strive to be.
When I’m able, I celebrate the salt water squeezing from my eyes, knowing it means I’m so fully human that I leak my humanity everywhere I go. Even God wept while dwelling among us on earth, and what’s good enough for Him is certainly good enough for me.
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…mourning and great weeping, weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. from Matthew 2:18 and Jeremiah 31:15
Newtown, CT December 2012 There are the fields we’ll walk across In the snow lightly falling. In the snow lightly falling, There are the fields we’ll walk across.
There are the houses we’ll walk toward In the snow lightly falling. In the snow lightly falling, There are the houses we’ll walk toward.
There are the faces we once kissed In the snow lightly falling. In the snow lightly falling, There are the faces we once kissed.
Incredible how we laughed and cried In the snow lightly falling. In the snow lightly falling, Incredible how we laughed and cried.
Incredible how we’ll meet again In the snow lightly falling. In the snow lightly falling, Incredible how we’ll meet again.
No small hand will go unheld In the snow lightly falling. In the snow lightly falling, No small hand will go unheld.
No voice once heard is ever lost In the snow lightly falling. In the snow lightly falling, No voice once heard is ever lost. ~Dick Allen “Solace”
In mourning for the families of Uvalde, Texas
There is no comfort for these families. Their arms ache with emptiness, their childrens’ beds and pillows cold tonight, dolls and stuffed animals awaiting all night hugs that will never come again.
There is no earthly consolation; only mourning and great weeping, sobbing that wrings dry every human cell, leaving only dust behind, which is our beginning and our end.
Christ came to us for times such as this, born of the dust of woman and the breath of Spirit. God bent down to be cradled in barn dust, walk on roads of dust, die and be laid to rest as dust to conquer such evil as this – the slaughter and massacre of innocents.
He became dust to be like us He began a mere speck in a womb like us His heart beat like ours breathing each breath like ours until a fearful fallen world took His and our breath away.
He shines His Light through the darkness of tragic deaths to guide our stumbling uncertain feet. His tender mercies flow freely when there is no consolation, when there is no comfort.
He hears our cries as He cried too. He knows our tears as He wept too. He knows our mourning as He mourned too. He knows our dying as He died too.
God wept as this happened yesterday. Evil comes not from God yet humankind embraces it. Sin is our ongoing choice, a decision made from our beginning, but we can choose to end it now.
Only God can glue together what evil has shattered. He asks us to hand Him the pieces of our broken hearts, abandon our evil ways and sin no more.
We will know His peace when He comes to bring us home, our tears finally dried, our cells no longer just dust, as we are glued together by the word and breath and voice of God forevermore.
the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1: 78-79
Something has descended like feathered prophecy. Someone has offered the world a bowl of frozen tears,
has traced the veins and edges of leaves with furred ink. The grass is stiff as the strings of a lute.
And, day by day, the tiny windows crack their cardboard frames seizing the frail light. The sun, moving through
these waxy squares, undiminished as a word passing from mind to speech. Every breath a birth,
a stir of floating limbs within me. I stay up late and waken early to feel beneath my feet the silence coming. ~Anya Silver “Advent, First Frost”
When I am weary, putting one foot in front of the other in the humble chores of the barn, feeling so cold at times, I no longer remember this was once sweaty summer work ~ now my hands ache in an arctic wind that shows no mercy.
Yet I know respite will come, refuge is near, salvation is imminent. Each breath I breathe a cloud of hope.
I will remember what our good God has prepared for us in such a place as this, what He has done to come down to dwell with us, melting our frozen tears, aching in silence alongside us.
Good people all, this Christmas time, Consider well and bear in mind What our good God for us has done In sending his beloved son With Mary holy we should pray, To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn, There was a blessed Messiah born The night before that happy tide The noble Virgin and her guide Were long time seeking up and down To find a lodging in the town
But mark right well what came to pass From every door repelled, alas As was foretold, their refuge all Was but a humble ox’s stall Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angel did appear Which put the shepherds in great fear Arise and go, the angels said To Bethlehem, be not afraid For there you’ll find, this happy morn A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find And as God’s angel had foretold They did our Saviour Christ behold Within a manger he was laid And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life Who came on earth to end all strife There were three wise men from afar Directed by a glorious star And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay And when they came unto that place Where our beloved Messiah lay They humbly cast them at his feet With gifts of gold and incense sweet. ~Traditional Irish — the Wexford Carol 12th century
Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower—but if I could understand What you are, root and all, all in all, I should know what God and man is. ~Lord Alfred Tennyson “Flower in the Crannied Wall”
Am I root, or am I bud? Am I stem or am I leaf?
All in all, I am but the merest reflection of God’s fruiting glory;
I am His tears shed as He broke into blossom.
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How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity’s song– all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.
Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.
We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God. ~Nicholas Wolterstorffin Lament for a Son
“My God, My God,” goes the Psalm 22, “hear me, why have you forsaken me?”
This is the anguish all we of Godforsaken heart know well. But hear the revelation to which Christ directs us, further in the same psalm:
For He has not despised nor scorned the beggar’s supplication, Nor has He turned away His face from me; And when I cried out to Him, He heard me.“
He hears us, and he knows, because he has suffered as one Godforsaken. Which means that you and I, even in our darkest hours, are not forsaken. Though we may hear nothing, feel nothing, believe nothing, we are not forsaken, and so we need not despair.
And that is everything. That is Good Friday and it is hope, it is life in this darkened age, and it is the life of the world to come. ~Tony Woodlief from “We are Not Forsaken”
Scratch the surface of a human being and the demons of hate and revenge … and sheer destructiveness break forth.
The cross stands before us to remind us of this depth of ourselves so that we can never forget.
Again and again we read the stories of violence in our daily papers, of the mass murders and ethnic wars still occurring in numerous parts of our world. But how often do we say to ourselves: “What seizes people like that, even young people, to make them forget family and friends, and suddenly kill other human beings?” We don’t always ask the question in that manner. Sometimes we are likely to think, almost smugly: “How different those horrible creatures are from the rest of us. How fortunate I am that I could never kill or hurt other people like they did.”
I do not like to stop and, in the silence, look within, but when I do I hear a pounding on the floor of my soul. When I open the trap door into the deep darkness I see the monsters emerge for me to deal with. How painful it is to bear all this, but it is there to bear in all of us. If I do not deal with it, it deals with me. The cross reminds me of all this.
This inhumanity of human to human is tamed most of the time by law and order in most of our communities, but there are not laws strong enough to make men and women simply cease their cruelty and bitterness. This destructiveness within us can seldom be transformed until we squarely face it in ourselves. This confrontation often leads us into the pit.
The empty cross is planted there to remind us: suffering is real but not the end, victory still is possible… ~Morton Kelsey from “The Cross and the Cellar”
The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last.
His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line. Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter. It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death. ~John Donne – hisopening words in his sermon on Christmas Day 1626
Anytime we assume God in heaven could not possibly understand the loneliness and rejection we feel the pain and discouragement we endure the hatred that taints our communities the suffering that is part of living inside these frail vessels, our bodies. Surely, we think — if there was a God, He would do something about it:
He reminds us today of all days He was scraped and torn – no scratching the surface, but gouged deep. He knows exactly what we endure because He wasn’t spared.
He took it all on Himself — our affliction became His.