IT’S OK TO CRY ON MOTHER’S DAY
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”
PSALM 126:5 NIV
I’ve been asking God for months about what I should write this Mother’s Day. I have wrestled with many ideas and yet nothing stuck. Then my best friend called me yesterday, and when the topic of Mother’s Day arose she encouraged me in her usual practical wisdom to write from the place I found myself. To use my messy discomfort and write from my imperfection. Her words not only shifted me, reminding me who I am, but caused the clutter of ideas that had been swirling around in my head and heart to beautifully sift into one precise and unexpected idea.
I would write about tears.
Awkward. Messy. Uncomfortable tears.
So here's a question....
When was the last time you cried?
For me it was only a few days ago. I’d had a bad day, after a tough few months, on top of a rough few years. I just so happened to cry at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and around the wrong people. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and I felt embarrassed. When I arrived home I felt like I could have cried some more…so I did. When I received a text message encouraging me to apologise for my tears that had flowed a little too freely, I cried even more. I cried for many reasons, but mostly because I was tired. Tired of trying to be strong when my heart felt weak. Tired of standing in a warzone. Tired of waiting for breakthrough. Tired of feeling sick. Tired of life feeling hard. Tired of feeling tired. My heart felt like it needed a rest from feeling, so it wouldn't break so easily, making me cry at the wrong time and making people feel awkward enough to want an apology for my tears.
Then I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “Gemma, it’s ok to cry. I give you permission to cry.”
And so I cried some more...
In the last nine years of waiting for a baby I have cried many tears. Some of those tears have been collected by my pillow in the pain of the midnight hour, others have gathered on the meadows of my cheeks leaving a salty crunchy afterglow, while others still (perhaps the more dramatic sort) have been wailing sobs collected on my husband’s t-shirt as he tried to hold me close enough to soothe the pain.
There are all sorts of places that tears collect on the earth, and for every kind of reason—from bedroom floors and hospital corridors, down to the humble tissue and every place in between. Yet of the vast oceans of tears soaked up by the thirsty earth on a daily basis, the scriptures speak of a less porous and more preserving kind of tear collector, different to the common pillow, t-shirt, and cheek varieties.
The scriptures tell us that God has assigned supernatural bottles to gather up our mortal tears, and angels to pen their existence into an eternal book. It is a picture that gives meaning to our sorrows when we are faced with confusion, so that our tears are never in vain, but rather divinely recorded on eternal pages telling of a wondrous narrative of redemption.
“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 NLT
Psalm 56:8 cracks open a door in heaven for us, giving a glimpse of a captivating storeroom of hope, filled with stacked-high walls of heavenly bottles that lovingly catch and collect human tears. A treasure-trove room storing the heart-cries of every human soul like precious gems, as though they were substance far too valuable to just be absorbed and abandoned by the thankless atmosphere of earth.
Tears that are collected and valued by the Creator God.
In ancient eastern culture, when King David penned these words, it was customary to collect the tears of those experiencing heartache, grief or loss in bottles. It was custom to mark the moment with remembrance. King David in Psalm 56 was taking this custom to a new level and recognising that God was doing it for him, by remembering, valuing, and putting purpose to his tears of sorrow.
The scriptures tell us that King David and his soldiers wept a lot. The Psalms of David are full of tears, showing us tears are okay with God, especially as David was remembered for having a heart after God's own.
In 2 Kings we also see the power of tears in the life of Hezekiah, when he was sick and told that he would die. 2 Kings 20 tells us that Hezekiah cried out to God, who heard his prayer, saw his tears, and granted him a longer life.
In 1 Samuel, Hannah cried out in prayer to God, and He answered her prayer for a son.
In the gospels, when a sinful woman anoints Jesus with costly perfume mixed with her tears, Jesus calls her act beautiful and worthy of remembrance. (Luke 7:38.)
These stories are just few of many that tell of God's value of tears.
While in ancient times bottling tears was an external practice of remembrance, in modern times it seems to have become an internal practice. We don't value tears as scripture does, or ancient culture did. Yet we still bottle our tears. Rather than collect them in external bottles for remembrance, most of us bottle up our sorrows deep inside our soul. And it damages our souls. Our tears, sorrow and pain are actually too heavy for the human heart to hold.
Allowing ourselves to cry tears is one of the most healing things we can do, both physically and spiritually. It is scientifically proven that tears when shed release emotion, grief, pain, stress, toxins, and ninety-five percent of all bacteria. They increase the body’s production of endorphins, and are physically beneficial and healing, which is probably why in the presence of God it is so easy to cry… That and because God desires to collect them!
One of the most powerful - and shortest - statements of scripture is this: Jesus wept. (John 11:35) Jesus could have avoided showing us this act of emotion, but He knew how important and valuable it is to us. He created space to weep. Not just for those close to Him in the moment to witness, but also for us today. He wanted us to know it is ok to cry. He wanted to show us God is not uncomfortable or awkward with our sorrow. The book of Revelation tells us that God will personally wipe every tear from our eyes in compassion and love. Tears do not make God uncomfortable as they have found a practice of doing in our modern culture. Tears are not an expression of weakness to God. They are eternally significant enough God would collect them. (After all God chose to create us with tear ducts.) Although it might be more socially acceptable not to cry, it is more eternally helpful for us to cry.
So today I want to do something unusual. I want to give you permission to cry. Maybe no one has ever told you it is ok to cry.
One of the greatest gifts I’ve received in my nine years of infertility is a shoulder to cry on and a friend that has said “You can cry, and it’s ok.”
Today I want to be that friend to you!
Maybe Mother’s Day is difficult for you? Perhaps you’ve lost your mum. Maybe, like me, you are waiting to become a mother yourself. Maybe your children live far away, or are estranged from you. Maybe you have lost a child to tragic circumstances, or your womb has never physically carried children, and you feel it's too late now.
Maybe today, for whatever reason, you feel pain.
If you do, it's ok, and it's also ok to cry.
Because the kingdom of heaven carries a different currency to the earth.
A currency that counts tears as a valuable commodity.
Because tears don't last forever, and those who sow in tears will reap fields of joy!
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry”