In the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks plays the Manager of a women’s baseball team. One of the most quoted lines of that movie is when Hanks shouts at a player, “There is no crying in baseball!” Frankly, I think most men feel the same about life. Shedding tears is not a manly thing to do.
Or so I once thought.
My late wife taught me much about compassion. She had a heart for women in need, especially those in a crisis pregnancy situation. Many a day I would come home to find her teary-eyed over the circumstances of a young woman she had counseled at the Refuge Pregnancy Center. She had allowed the sorrow of others to become her own. Her heart broke over the brokenness of others. Seeing others through God’s eyes produced a compassion that overflowed in tears.
Now, I pray for tears.
No one has to tell me we live in a world that includes pain and suffering, a world where there are more questions than answers. Yet I have learned that those unbearable bends in the road, those heart-rendering potholes into which we fall, can serve a purpose. One, that life’s most painful moments may steer us down a path to redeeming grace. Two, that the Lord is indeed near those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). And three, our hearts, like His, grow warm and tender in the face of those in need.
Having experienced grief, especially the grief that comes with the death of a loved one, I find myself more empathetic to those who suffer the same. Working each week at a local Food Bank humbled me. Seeing the weary eyes of those in need and hearing the kind of “thank you” that only comes from a mother who knows she will be able to feed her children that night changes you. Serving at a homeless shelter, and seeing men carry everything they owned in a backpack, reminded me I should be a channel, not a cup, of God’s blessings.
Now, willing myself to be more attentive, it has not been difficult to make a daily prayer list for those in need. Whether it be the grief of loss, the pain of a sickness, a wayward child, or a lost soul, my heart has found an expanded reservoir of compassion and an unlimited supply of tears.
Today I do not pray for tears as some sort of dramatic pretense of false tenderness. Instead, I pray that in drawing near to the God of Compassion, the One who holds all sorrows and tears, I may see as He sees, I may grieve as He grieves, I may love as He loves, and I may be able to weep with those who weep. Maybe that’s it. Praying for tears is praying for that which only comes from a heart of compassion.
Now, more than ever before, I understand the tears of my beloved late wife, for I realize that reflecting on her tears has helped me to grasp the meaning of my own.
As Oscar Romero, the late Archbishop of El Salvador, once said, “There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”
So maybe, just maybe, shedding tears of compassion is indeed a manly thing to do.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” Washington Irving
“What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.” Jewish Proverb
Note: Picture provided by Aliyah Jamous at unsplash.com