The image here shows an ancient scene of people catching their tears in a jar. There is an ancient story that tears were a precious substance for healing, and a gift of out-poured emotion from the giver to the recipient. So often, we hide from our tears. But, tears can also be thought of as divine, a holy water that emerges from the depths of our soul. In today’s reflection, ask yourself the question:
When have your tears felt like holy water?
I keep a personal blog, small points of light, with which some of you may be familiar. Last year, I wrote this reflection about times that tears found me in the midst of what turned out to be holy moments in the midst of my everyday life. Today, I share this with you: a reflection on my own tears as holy water, Living Water for my journey.
small points of light: Unexpected Tears
Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are but, more often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.
I love it when I find a quote…or a quote finds me…and it settles in to my spirit like a gift. My morning began with that gift, the small point of light that affirms that we are not the only one experiencing what we are experiencing. Others have come before, others will come after and we all share a common experience. I think that is what I love about quotations: they evoke belonging, being fully known and understood by another soul.
So, Buechner understood something about unexpected tears, too. And experienced them on the journey as well, I suspect.
Being who I am, I want to unpack this term. “Unexpected” means that we are not prepared, not awaiting, not intellectually or cognitively planning for the event. We have not stuffed tissues in our pockets (like we do when going to a wedding) nor have we insured a box of tissues were quickly within reach (like I do when I counsel and console the grieving). Those are actions of expectancy, of preparation. “Unexpected” means we are caught unaware, raw, and tissue-less…caught in the moment of being our authentic selves amid our daily living.
“Tears” are neither sniffles, nor moistness about the eyes, nor keeping a stiff upper lip. Tears cannot be stifled. They well up in our eyes, run down our cheeks, and scream out to those around us: something is happening. In our modern society, tears are often interpreted “something is wrong” and very often our knee-jerk first response is to say, “are you ok?” as if tears indicate we are less than ok. Tears give away our inner workings, and expose us and our humanness. No wonder they can seem unsettling.
“Unexpected Tears” then, are truly at the core of that which unsettles us. Unprepared, in the midst of our daily living, giving away that we are having a core experience of our humanness at that very moment. Terrifying. Beautiful.
Buechner posits that unexpected tears are they key to moments of spiritual growth and enlightenment. I tend to agree. Reflecting on my own life, when I find myself wondering, “why am I crying?” that usually propels me to soul searching. Sometimes, like the present point on my journey, I experience these tears as a gift. Moments of enlightenment, of clarity. When walking, when working, when being still, when being myself. Times when a divine spark of wisdom meets a human longing are filled with enormous potential for growth. I am reflecting on those moments today.
The gift of unexpected tears.