A coule of days ago I heard reports that the Miami Heat basketball team lost another game. I am not a big NBA fan, but I was well aware of the James-Wade-Bosh decision to form a super team last summer. I thought that Cleveland deserved better treatment, but also understand why players would make the decision which they did. Lately, the super team has fallen on hard times and the coach reported after another tough loss that "there were guys crying in the locker room." This was fodder on numerous sports talk shows the next day and I ran across the story several times. Some of the talk conveyed the assumption that crying was not manly.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. The major theme of the day is repentance. It is also the beginning of Lent, a season of preparation for Holy Week, culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. There is a close connection between this day and the cross of Jesus for me. I tend to jump from A to Z in my thought processes, so last night on the altar I was transported to April anticipating the emotional service from Good Friday. As I did, I felt a surge of deep emotion. My eyes teared up. Again. You see, I am one of those men who do cry...
Ash Wednesday is a long day. I got to church at 5:40 am, so the 7:00pm eucharist is at the end of a long day. During the day we got word that the priest with whom I had worked for my first eight years at St. Andrews had fallen and suffered head trauma. Fr. John is 84 and has grieved the loss of his wife for many years. A couple of minor strokes and the ravages of age have forced him to give up the church work and driving. He makes it clear that he is ready to join his wife. He is asking God to take him home. So even though he wants to die, I found myself choking up when I talked with his family. I was pretty emotional and know I would cry if I talked about it. It is embarassing to cry in public. I know. I have done it so very many times.
In reading Genesis, I was struck by how often Joseph cries. I think it is like four or five times. In bible study class we read that Elisha the prophet wept when he spoke with a general of Aram because he knew what horrors that man would visit on Israel. I also know that Jesus wept over Jerusalem and wept before the tomb of Lazarus.
What is cryng? Why do we have water come out of our eyes and make strange noises when we are sad? How is it that some people find themselves choking up constantly (me) while others seem able to walk through life composed?
When I preach about the love or mercy of God I choke up. When I speak about Jesus and His call to saving relationship with us I choke up. But sitting here writing this I am not emotionally moved. It is odd to me. I wonder what is going on. I have heard that "the gift of tears" is a movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I hope that is true. I know tears are also a natural phenomena, witness the basketball reference above. I know big boys do cry, I have seen many athletes, soldiers and other manly men weep. I also know that it is something with which most men are uncomfortable. That said, I am pretty sure that I will continue to choke up when I preach. I will cry when Fr. John, my friend, dies. I will cry at his funeral even though he wants to pass to the next stage. And I will marvel at this mystery of emotion and wrestle with it and try to figure out what our Father God is doing with all this crying. I just hope that the church continues to be a place where people can cry without shame when they have to. We cry for a reason and sometimes I think we need to. I think God designed us that way.