October 14, 1014
A Universal Language
The first sound we make is a cry. That initial cry from a newborn is music to the ears of everyone in the delivery room. It’s the sound of life.
It’s also a sound that a mother and a father soon learn to like less, as it means 2:00 A.M. feedings.
Crying doesn’t have to be taught. It is a universal language spoken by babies all over the world. It’s up to us interpret the cry and understand its meaning. Usually, the cry is an appeal to those around the child to make his/her world a little better. “Feed me, change me, pick me up, let me go, give me your attention.”
Now, as we age, we still speak this language universally, but we have learned that just because we cry, we don’t always get our needs met.
Eventually, parents must not only wean the child from the bottle, but also from a cry/response way of life.
Sometimes you see children that haven’t ever quite made this transition successfully. It seems like you can always find at least one of them at K-mart in the toy section.
A little fellow has broken free from a parent and found a toy as if he were preprogrammed to know exactly where it was found in the store and the parent says, “Now I told you we were not getting anything today.” Immediately, the child starts crying.
As the crying gets louder and the embarrassing situation builds, the parent’s voice gets a little louder. The child clutches the toy as if it’s a loaf of bread and he hasn’t had a meal in days. The parent steps toward the child and the child runs and when he child is caught legs are kicking like a calf at a rodeo that refuses to be tied and he begins to cry like he’s been branded with a hot poker.
In exasperation, the parent puts the screaming child in the buggy with his prize and off they go, with the parent saying, “Now, that’s all you are getting! Now quit that crying.” As they go down the aisle, you can almost hear the child saying, as he dries up his crocodile tears, “Works every time.”
Tears do serve a physical purpose. They lubricate our eyes. This occurs in other animals such as elephants and gorillas. However, we are the only animals that have tears that emerge as a result of our emotions.
We can cry when we experience pain, anger, joy, fear, happiness, empathy, grief, and sadness or if you are a woman, you can cry for apparently no reason at all.
Physiologically, through our tears, our body is able to release stress hormones and endorphins, which are our body’s natural painkillers. This is one reason we feel better after we have allowed tears to flow. However, in our culture, some of us guys wouldn’t know anything about that because we are taught to hold back the tears.
As boys we are terrified of being called a “cry baby.” We are taught to be tough and strong. We are taught that it’s shameful to get in touch with any emotion that might show weakness, so tears are definitely forbidden.
“Ah, that didn’t hurt,” says the father, as the little boy reacts to a fall. His jeans are ripped and blood is oozing from a scraped knee.
The little boy’s thinking, “It didn’t hurt you but I’m telling you it hurt me a lot.” But he’s told to suck it up. Be a man. What he learns is that being a man means we should deny that pain is real, so we fight back tears whatever the cost.
Women can be sentimental and have a little cry when something touches their hearts, but men are conditioned to be callous, like old leather. No soft hearts here. That’s why we don’t like chick flicks. Give us blood and guts. No chance for tears there.
The first time I remember being ridiculed for my tears was the night I sat with my mother and my sister and watched “Old Yeller.” Old Yeller saved Timmy, his owner, from a rabid coon. Timmy had to shut him up to keep a watch on him. Old Yeller began to show signs of meanness, and then it was apparent, rabies had gone to his brain. Old Yeller was rabid. Timmy had to take his gun and shoot him.
Now when Timmy shot his own dog, that hurt my heart and tears welled up and rolled down my cheeks like raindrops on a window pane.
I must have made the mistake of wiping a tear or whimpered a bit, because my hard-hearted sister, who apparently was not touched by the scene, called me out. “Are you crying?” I can still hear her laughing to this day. It’s a good thing my mom was still sitting between us or my sister’s laughter might have turned to tears quickly.
Tears don’t just come when we are sad. Haven’t you ever laughed so hard that you cried?
In The Bill Cosby Show, Dr. Huxtable is having a conversation with his lovesick son Theo. Theo and his girl, Justine, have broken up and Theo has been writing her poems trying to win her back.
Dr. Huxtable tells him that it’s time for him to go the next level, which is some serious begging. Then he can go to the ultimate level.
“This,” he says, “is the ultimate level.”
He goes to the record player and puts on some Blues. “That’s what you want, the Blues level, my son. Now listen to me. Be det, de det, de det, de det, ba, ba, bomp, de diddly, donk.”
Theo says without much conviction, “Justine, Justine.”
Cliff Huxtable knows that Theo is not yet crying in his soul. He is not feeling any deep sorrow in his heart and knows his woman will not hear it as sincere.
So Dr. Huxtable says, “Theo, you are a dog. You’re a dog. You’re under the house. It’s 22 below zero. The wind is blowing fierce. You’re freezing and you’re cold and the only person who can open that door for you is Justine.”
“Be det, de det, de det, de det, ba, ba, bomp, de diddle, donk.”
“Justine! Justine!” This time, Theo says it with passion.
“Come on now–you got to hit that high note,”
says his father,
Theo lets out a high-pitched cry and say with deep passion.
“De diddle, Donk.”
“Don’t believe what you’ve seen.”
“De diddle, Donk.”
“Oh, baby, I’m sorry.”
The scene ends as Mrs. Huxtable comes slowly down the stairs to investigate what all the crying is about in her living room.
Now it’s ironic that Cosby can make us laugh at someone else’s pain while we still have empathy for them. But this was a brilliant plan.
Think about the Blues. The Blues are something we sing because we understand trouble, suffering, hard times, without much control to change things. Yet singing the Blues makes us feel better. We can only sing the Blues when we get in touch with our suffering. But, we ARE singing. Those two things ought not go together.
Cliff Huxtable was trying to get his son to connect with his emotions at a deep level.
I’m telling you, church can happen when you allow yourself to get in touch with your emotions at a deep level and you allow the Holy Spirit to meet you there.
When the Holy Spirit moves among us, He wants us to connect with Him and to be human – to allow ourselves to feel joy, sorrow, pain, grief, fear, anxiety, anger, humor, and peace.
God created us with all these emotions. Many of us have been conditioned not to connect with them, especially at church. We are afraid to allow ourselves to feel emotion and to show emotion because someone might think we don’t have it all together.
They didn’t have it all together at the tomb of Lazarus. They were overcome with grief. There, Jesus met Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. They were close friends of his.
They were not only grieving that their brother had died, but they were upset that Jesus had no come sooner. They believed Jesus could have healed their brother.
After Martha had spoken with Jesus, she went to find Mary and told her that Jesus wanted to see her. Mary then poured out her grief to Jesus through her tears as did her sister. Like her sister, she told Jesus that she believed her brother would still be alive if Jesus had come sooner.
They were grieving and they were also disappointed. From John’s gospel:
33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”
34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.
Many will recall John 11:35 from the King James Version as being the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”
Certainly, grief was the emotion that Martha, Mary, and their friends were felt. No doubt Jesus empathized with their grief and perhaps his tears reflected that empathy.
But the scripture reveals that Jesus was feeling another emotion: anger. One biblical translation says “He became angry in spirit and disgusted.” (The Zurich Bible, 1931 revision).
What is it that angers Jesus?
One of our younger son’s first experiences with death was the death of his hamster. Rocky was a typical hamster. He liked to play on his little wheel in the cage and he liked to run through the little cardboard tubes and then chew them to pieces. Ryan liked to take him out of his cage and let him run loose in the house.
But one day Rocky turned up dead. It was a very hard lesson for Ryan because we discovered that Rocky did not have any food or water and had not had any for several days. Ooops. Ryan forgot to take care of his pet.
I took Ryan across the street into the edge of the woods and we dug a hole to bury Rocky. Ryan held him gently in his hands as I dug the hole and when it was deep enough I told Ryan to put him in the ground. At that point, Ryan turned Rocky over and with force he slammed him into the hole and turned around and headed for the house.
It was all I could do to not burst out in laughter.
Ryan was grieving but he was also angry. He was angry at death.
That day, at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus was angry at death. It had claimed his friend. It had caused great suffering to his friends.
Ezekiel 18:23 and 32 tell us that God takes ‘no pleasure in death’ and Paul says that God considers it to be an enemy to be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).
To those present, Jesus’ tears were tears that showed the love he had for his friends. While that is true, his tears were much more.
These were the tears of one who would become the Suffering Servant. This was a powerful moment because Jesus knew that this was the reason that he came, to defeat this kind of enemy, to take our sadness and turn it into joy, to take our grief and turn it into laughter, to take our hopelessness and to turn it into hope.
So with tears in his eyes, Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus and tells them to roll back the stone.
Martha reminded Jesus of the obvious, that by then the body would have started to stink.
But Jesus stood there and with tears in eyes encouraged Martha to believe and he lifted his eyes to heaven and thanked the Father for hearing him. Then he cried with a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come forth.”
Those things that bring death still anger Jesus. He cries with us because He is moved by what moves us.
More than that, Jesus is not content to leave us bound in our sin or held captive to anyone else’s.
Wherever there is sadness in your life, Jesus is working to bring joy; wherever there is chaos, He is working to bring peace; wherever there is despair, He is working so you might celebrate again. Wherever there is death, Jesus is working to bring life.
And so, while our tears can be healing, cleansing, and therapeutic, and while it is important for us to learn to be comfortable with our own tears and also with the tears of others, I remind you of hope and assurance from our Lord, that a day is coming when He “will wipe every tear from our eyes.” A day is coming when “there will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev. 21:4.
This morning, God knows what breaks your heart. God knows the tears you shed when no one is watching. God knows if you have trouble connecting with your emotions.
I pray for you the faith of Martha and Mary, who loved Jesus, but were unafraid to express to him their disappointment, and yet, Martha could still say, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:22.
Can you be that honest with Jesus today?