Does this happen to you? All of a sudden, your eyes leak.
Maybe someone jumps out and shouts, “Boo!”
Maybe you say, “I love you.”
Maybe your song comes on the radio: “‘Cuz I can’t fight this feelin’ anymore…”
Maybe your son walks quietly to the front for his solo.
Maybe your friend is grieving, and you’re holding her hand.
Maybe your daughter walks across the stage.
Maybe you’ve hugged and said good-bye. Again. And again.
Maybe you wish you could see them one more time. Right now.
There are lots of times my eyes leak. Yes, all of the above times. And then more times. Sometimes, they are expected. Other times, they surprise me. In startle or delight. In reflection or regret. In my fear. In my pain. In someone else’s pain. In the dark, when the lights are off and no one can see them. In a crowd, where someone might be watching.
My eyes fill up. They burn behind my eyelids. It feels as if there is something that pokes, for just a second, into my eyeballs. Blinking can sometimes make them stop. Or I close my eyes and one drips down my left cheek. Or I squeeze my eyes tightly to keep them in, but they spill out anyway. Pouring down my face. Off my chin. They are hot on my skin. They drip onto my shirt. Wait, is that one on my nose, or is my nose dripping too? I’m going to need a tissue. Or the whole box.
I’m learning to accept them. For the longest time in my life, I would choke them back. “Deal with them later,” I’d tell myself. Then I’d forget to deal with them, so they’d stuff down. Repeat that procedure enough times, and they can get stuck.
I went through 5+ years of major depressive disorder (MDD) where I couldn’t cry. I wanted to. I was sure I would feel better if could just get the tears out. But it had been so long. And the depression had separated me from many of my emotions, leaving me feeling flat most of the time. So I couldn’t cry. Not the deep cleansing sobs anyway. I tried. I watched “tear-jerker” movies, read sad poems. Nothing.
It wasn’t until my therapist made me sit with them. I could feel them, but I’d gotten pretty good at shutting them down. He told me to sit with them, and with the thoughts behind them. We waited in silence. And slowly the tears came. The pricks behind my eyelids. The eyes tightly shut. And then all the rest.
It was as if the dam broke. I know that’s cliche, but it really describes it.
I became concerned that if I started crying by myself, I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I continued to hold them until I was in a “safe place” where I could share them. I’d share a few with a friend, or my mom or sister, or a prayer buddy, or a coworker. Someone close, who knew me and understood me.
Now the tears come easily. Usually unbidden. Often unexpectedly. And I cry, and stop crying, by myself. I don’t really share them with anyone now. With whom would I? I can’t pick up the phone and call a friend when I’m crying unconsolably. What can they do? Last time I cried really hard with a friend, they stood across the room. Didn’t approach me, didn’t hug me or comfort me. I don’t think they knew what to do. Or maybe they were crying their own tears.
Please don’t misunderstand – I share them with my husband. He knows how to comfort me and what to say as he hugs me close. But there’s no one else to share them with.
Wait – that’s not true. God is here. He helps. Always. I simply need to let Him remind me from His Word:
Jesus wept. (John 11:35, NIV)
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; (Isaiah 53:3a, prophesy about Jesus, NASB)
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8, NIV)
I’m not crying alone! Jesus is with me always, and He understands. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, lives inside me. God cradles me on His lap. Someday, He’ll wipe all the tears away – there will be no tears in heaven.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17, NIV)
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4, NIV)
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. (Jeremiah 31:13, NIV)