Tears

As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more emotional. My tear ducts break loose at the slightest provocation. Heart-wrenching movie? Pile of emotional goo. Videos of joyful, tearful reunions? Break out the Kleenex. But there are tears, and then there are tears. The thing is, it doesn’t bother me much when my emotions get the best of me, even in public. As I’ve told friends before, I’m at an age where I don’t worry as much about what people think of me; I’m not quite as driven by the obsessive need to impress.

Most of my life it really bothered me to show emotion, especially tears. I can remember sitting in first grade class, crying uncontrollably and having no idea why, not making the association with my dad having left our family, never to return. What I remember most was the embarrassment of being emotionally out of control. After all, boys were taught it was less than manly to cry or show any emotion of that sort. I learned pretty early on in life to not express my emotions; any time I did I embarrassed myself.

As a result I learned it was better to show a happy personality, or at least a well-controlled one. Since I was to be the example for my younger siblings, anger, sadness, and crying were discouraged; I had a standard to set. That carried through most of my life. I could allow a certain amount of “socially acceptable” emotion to show, but not more intense, possibly humiliating levels. They eventually came out in very negative, destructive ways. Thank God they finally did. It was life-changing, and helped me to start to become the man I’m turning out to be. I finally realized it was all right to feel this way, but there were better ways to deal with it.

I can’t explain why I’m so easily reduced to tears over the sappiest movies, joyful reunions, weddings and the like. I could offer a couple of explanations, I suppose. The first would be related to my cancer, odd as that sounds. When you are subjected to androgen deprivation therapy (it means they make your testosterone disappear) that drastic change in body chemistry does a number on your brain. Having been through it twice, I can tell you it turns you into a hot-flashing, emotional mess. Almost anything can suddenly cause a lacrimal flood.

Another possibility is just getting older (again, possibly related to the testosterone). My brother, who is a couple of years younger than I am, tells me he does the same thing. Heart-wrenching movie? Bawls like a baby. We commiserate but there’s no ridicule on either side. It is what it is, and we’ve learned to live with it and not beat ourselves up over it. After all, it’s nothing for which we should be ashamed. Remember-old guys, don’t care what people think.

The best explanation, and my favorite, was given to me by my ‘brother from another mother’, good friend and dear brother in Christ Gary Leftwich. His explanation is the Holy Spirit working to produce a tender heart, more like God’s. I’m gonna go with that, because I really want that to be the reason. It’s what I desire most, pray for, and want to become. I’m ready to trade in a heart of stone for one of flesh and blood, beating in time with that of my Lord, caring, feeling, experiencing the joys and sorrows that also touch God’s heart.

But as I mentioned earlier, there are tears, and then there are tears. I’ve known tears of sorrow and pain; they’re necessary at times but not pleasant. What I experience more often are tears of joy, and it’s something new. They used to happen every now and then; now, they happen on a frequent basis. My wife will catch me watching ‘joyful tears’ videos and ask me why I’m doing this to myself. The answer’s not all that simple, but is best explained like this: after a year of cancer, death, COVID, isolation, and yes, depression, it feels good to cry tears of joy. To really feel something positive, even if it belongs to someone else. To rejoice with those who rejoice, and to feel it deeply enough to produce tears. The ultimate tears of joy come from the realization God was so intent I should be His forever He took on flesh, lived among us, and endured the hatred of mankind, a hatred that resulted in His death as the perfect sacrifice to break the power of sin and death that stood between us. Those are tears of joy worth shedding, and I have no shame in doing so.

The Bible tells us that there will be no tears in Heaven. I hope that’s not entirely correct, because I can’t help but think I’ll be weeping tears of joy when I finally see Jesus. I think He’d understand. And I suspect I won’t be the only one.