The closest communion with God comes, I believe, through the sacrament of tears. Just as grapes are crushed to make wine and grain to make bread, so the elements of this sacrament come from the crushing experiences of life.
And sometimes the crushing starts early.
One day your dog doesn’t come home, and you go calling for it. Another day passes, and you go looking for it. And on the third day when you’re looking for it, you find its stiff body on the side of a well-trafficked street, and you bundle it up, carry it off, dig a hole in the backyard, and you bury it with a rock as a tombstone and tears as a eulogy.
Or someone at school dies from a cerebral hemorrhage, or several someones in a sudden car wreck.
Or someone you’ve fallen in love with hasn’t fallen in love with you, and you think life can’t go on.
Or you learn from the orthopedic doctor that you can no longer play the sport you have loved for half of your still very young life, and maybe it’s not the thing that should bring tears, but it does.
Or a grandparent dies. A grandparent who loved you and teased you and hugged you and brought “a little something for you” every time she came to visit. And now there’s a freshly dug hole in the backyard of your heart.
Or a parent dies, and now the whole backyard is one big hole.
Or a marriage ends between two people you thought would be the last to break up, and besides the grief you feel, you sense the mortar of life loosening a little, and the unsettling feeling that if it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone, even to you.
Like the dark woods of a fairy tale, life too has its dark side. And somewhere down the road, if we travel long enough down that road, we will experience it. Who knows what woods that road will take us through or what frightening things may be crouching in their shadows?
In Dante’s Inferno, the writer is taking a walk and suddenly finds himself disoriented, and so begins his journey into the various levels of hell with these words:
In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood.
In the middle of my own journey I found myself in such a wood. But it is only partially my story and I would rather not tell any of it than risk telling the part of it that is not mine to tell. What I can say is this: The darkness of the woods was more terrifying than the starkness of the wilderness.
It was for me a time of depression in which the trees were so dense and their shadows so long that I didn’t know how to get out — or if I ever would get out. That was the fear. Not the darkness of the woods. Not the dangers in the shadows. But that the woods may never end.
I feared too for someone I loved whose life had also ended up in the woods, only in a different one from mine, lost too but in a different way. I wanted with all my heart to help but found myself of all people the least capable of doing it.
And so the sun went down and the woods got dark, and with the darkness came the tears. There I was, huddled in the rain, shivering, and the only thing I could do was pray for the dawn.
So much is distilled in our tears, not the least of which is wisdom in living life. From my own tears I have learned that if you follow your tears, you will find your heart. If you find your heart, you will find what is dear to God. And if you find what is dear to God, you will find the answer to how you should live your life.
A Prayer for Courage
Help me, O God. Give me the courage to cry. Help me to understand that tears bring freshly washed colors arching across the soul, colors that wouldn’t be there apart from the rain. Help me to see in the prism of my tears, something of the secret of who I am. Give me the courage not only to see what those tears are revealing but to follow where they are leading. And help me to see, somewhere over the rainbow, that where they are leading me is home…
Excerpted with permission from Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire, copyright Ken Gire, Jr.
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If you’re in tears today, if you are feeling crushed, remember that God is with you. He will not leave you alone. He will lead you to healing and wholeness through those tears. Come join the conversation on our blog. We would love to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily