Tears are amazing things.
They are a sign of sorrow, and anger, and fear, and frustration. They are a sign of joy, and fun, and sentimentality. The same physical reaction can be associated with the whole range of human emotions.
It takes a lot to make some people cry.
I'm not one of them. I'm a serial crier. All I have to do is see someone else in (or even near) tears, and I'm right there with them. I cry at commercials. I cry at movies. I cry anticipating the part in movies where I know I’m going to cry. I cry at jokes. I cry at memories. I cry at weddings. I cry at funerals. I cry at music.
It’s why I don’t wear mascara.
It’s also why I usually end up laughing, because I think it’s so silly that I’m crying over these things.
In the Bible, references to crying (weeping) are generally negative: weeping and wailing, weeping bitterly, weeping and gnashing of teeth, mourning and weeping. Joyful times are generally met with music and sacrifices.
I've been thinking about crying this month.
In Bible study on Sunday we were talking about doing the individual absolution at the Maundy Thursday service. Jason noted that there were a lot of people in tears during that rite. I'm guessing there will be some tears tonight at our Ash Wednesday service as we are blessed with ashes as a reminder of our humanity. There is something powerful about feeling the touch of someone as they offer a blessing. (Darn it, I'm in tears already.)
It turns out that many of my close family members have died in February. It's been 13 years since the last death, but I still tiptoe through the month hoping nothing happens. But there are tears as I remember those lost.
I shared on Facebook that I fell in love with Ash Wednesday when I saw my eight-day-old son with a smudge of ashes on his forehead.. A year later I was taking him to the doctor every other day while they tried to figure out why he was apparently very ill. Ash Wednesday and Lent will always have that mountain and valley aspect for me, mixed with the tears of joy and worry.
Elon Musk and SpaceX launched a rocket this month. And as great as the launch was, the perfect landing of the booster rockets was just so amazing. And tear inducing, though I'm not sure I can explain what the emotion is. It was just so amazing.
For Eagles fans this month there have been tears of joy.
There will be tears at the Olympics. Athletes will cry because they did well. Or because they didn't. Family members will cry for the same reasons. And the truly sentimental among us will cry just because it's amazing to see the accomplishments of 17-year-olds.
I keep running across music which brings me to tears. Sometimes because of memories. Sometimes because it's just beautiful.
There are medical benefits to crying: it supposedly releases toxins, kills bacteria, and improves vision. Emotional tears relieve stress. Even when the problem persists, crying can just make us feel better.
I've more or less given up being embarrassed about crying in public. So, if you see me in tears tonight at Ash Wednesday worship, know that everything is OK.
And remember what Jesus said:
"Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." (Luke 6:21)
- Ann Warner