The other day one of my kids asked me, “What is the big deal about tears?” And I had to think about it a little bit. Why don’t we like to cry? We are all told, forget “big boys don’t cry…” let your kids cry, but then we all avoid tears ourselves. A dear friend’s mom dies, another friend discovers cancer, a brother loses his job and just can’t cope… but we think that everyone is okay because they aren’t crying. When folk ask “how are you doing?” it’s considered a brave move, because, what if that person isn’t alright? What if that person cries?
We all know that crying doesn’t make you any weaker. But nobody likes to cry. The point is crying is awkward. When a friend tells you something sad and you feel that lump in your throat… why do we suppress it? When we were small children we knew the power of a good cry. How many of us haven’t kept our tears inside until they erupted into a flood of frustrated tears and eventually fallen asleep only to wake up a while later somewhat refreshed. If you can’t remember this yourself, take a look at your own children… it happens to all of us. And yet we battle to cry.
I could get all scientific and say that there are three kinds of tears:
- Tears that continuously keep our eyes lubricated.
- Tears that occur when something irritates our eyes, think onions…
- And those emotional tears… tears of joy and tears of sadness.
And it is those emotional tears that are filled with beta-endorphins, which are our bodies’ natural pain relievers, which make them so different to those other more functional tears. These tears literally wash away the chemicals that build up in our bodies when we are stressed. They are a good thing, we were designed to cry to relieve stress and pain, tears literally wash our pain away. Consequently, those folk who find crying easier than others are healthier, just like those folk that laugh more… It is not just a blessed little thought to say that laughter, and tears, are the best medicine.
Now tears form a large part of our lives, difficult, impossible things happen to people and they are sad. The bible is filled with tears… for all sorts of life-events and many folk have wept bitterly throughout the pages of the Old and New Testaments. In fact, when Jesus was under emotional stress he cried real tears. In Luke 19:41 he wept over the impending destruction of the city of Jerusalem. And in John 11:35 “He wept,” He cried when His friend Lazarus died, even though He knew His friend would be revived. Jesus knew the cleansing effect of tears on our souls. In our modern culture we desperately avoid tears. We might say to our kids, “There, there, have a good cry.” But we kind of hope it won’t end in a sweaty miserable mess on the store floor.
Let’s face it, tears appear to be more than a little awkward. They reveal our souls, and in a world that embraces our appearance over our health… there is no place for streaky faces, let alone tears. It is more than our appearance, though, tears reveal our hearts and nobody likes to wear their heart on their sleeve.
In fact, we have crying down to such a fine art, that we can often decide wether to cry or “to be strong.” Strange that we think “not crying” is brave. Then again there are those tears that appear to not notice that we have suppressed them or not, they just appear to seep out us, like a jubilant spring our sorrows bubble… and really we kind of hope nobody notices because there is nothing at all we can do about them. Now I am not suggesting that everyone starts rushing about and dramatically crying at every turn… but we should be aware that while we say, “it’s okay to cry,” that we actually mean it.
I make it no secret that we choose to live with our tent flaps open and so many friends do drop in for a cup of tea or coffee through out the day and we sit at the kitchen table and chat. And very often chatting turns to matters of the heart… and folks cry about difficult times, things that happened years ago, but they never got around to crying about it back then. So right here, right now today… I am inviting you to make a cup of tea, and find a quiet moment and have a good cry. In Lamentations 2:18 “… Let your tears flow like a river…” it is for your health after all.