Hot, salty tears poured down my cheeks, mixing with the cold raindrops falling endlessly from the sky. I was a woman on a mission—a mission that no one seemed to understand the importance of with the exception of myself. I resembled a drowned rat, soaked to the bone and sopping wet. Traversing through the crowds at the outdoor music festival, I chose to just walk in the rain, knowing the raindrops would hide my tears.
I felt foolish crying again. At 23, I longed for respect, to be taken seriously as a professional in my field and to overcome the obvious barriers of my gender. It seemed that none of that was being accomplished today, and my reaction was typical—I cried.
I tried to choke back my sobs, but experienced criers will know that only causes louder and more uncontrolled laments. I silently asked myself how I could be mature if I reacted to adult situations by crying. Was I just like the 5-year-old I saw screaming last week in Wal-Mart because his mother wouldn’t buy him a Harry Potter figurine? More importantly, how could I ever be effective in the area of Christian counseling if I couldn’t manage my own emotions? Would I be forced to whimper in response to the longings of my clients’ souls? This is obvious proof of my lack of life experience, I taunted myself.
Or was it? After the situation was resolved, I contemplated the matter as I squeezed droplets of water from my hair. Was crying a bad response to the frustrating situation I just experienced? Why did I cry? What function did it serve? Was I an emotional basketcase, or was it really okay to cry?
As I thought about it, I realized my response to many different situations was the same—I cried. There Iam in the pew sniffling at the beauty of a wedding—two people wholly committing their lives to each other. Or check out the middle row of seats at the movie theater—yup, I’m there bawling at all the emotional parts at movies. Maybe I’m out with some friends on a Friday night, laughing so hard that tears are rolling down my cheeks. Come into a worship service at my church, and my hands will be lifted up, and again, wet tears will be coming from the corners of my eyes. Happy, sad, angry, moved beyond words, touched by the very presence of God–all elicit the same tearful reaction. It seemed that crying wasn’t just about not getting my way; it was how I reacted to everything!
The fact of the matter is this: I come from a long line of criers. Yes, my mother is a crier as well. I could blame her for this inherited “flaw,” but after careful consideration I realized it’s not a flaw at all. Consider Joseph, who has some wild adventures in the book of Genesis. Betrayed by his brothers, sold as a slave, seduced by a beautiful foreign woman, thrown in jail for refusing her advances and finally redeemed for his power of interpreting dreams and put in charge of all of Egypt with only Pharaoh himself as his boss, Joseph went through a wide range of emotions.
I couldn’t help but notice how many times the author of Genesis mentioned that Joseph wept. After years of separation from his baby brother, Benjamin, Genesis 43:40 records that, “Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.” When reunited with his father, Jacob, in 46:29, Joseph “threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.” Jacob died in chapter 50, and Joseph kissed his father lovingly as he wept over Jacob’s body. After the death of their father, Joseph’s brother feared they would suffer the repercussion from their crimes against Joseph now that their father was no longer a buffer of protection. Upon hearing of this, Joseph wept, called his brothers to him and lovingly uttered the famous words that have moved the hearts of readers for centuries: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”
Not only did Joseph fully express his emotions in the Scriptures, but Jesus of Nazareth, one of Joseph’s ancestors, cried as well. Jesus, being fully God and fully man, cried in John 11:35 when his good friend Lazarus died. Even though Lazarus’ life was restored, Jesus wept at the momentary loss of his dear friend. The Gospels record that Jesus also wept over Jerusalem because of the people’s unrepentance and its coming destruction. Jesus fully embodies who I want to be, and surely if He can weep, I can too.
Crying is an involuntary response to the joy, failures, frustrations, beauty and longings of our souls. Whether tears of happiness or bitter tears of pain, it’s okay to cry. In fact, crying is a healthy response because it releases the hormone called adrenalin that builds up in our systems as part of the fight-or-flight response. Go ahead, have a hearty cry and throw off the shackles of emotional enslavement that our society equates with weakness. Join the ranks of Joseph, Pharaoh’s right hand man, and Jesus, God in human flesh, and release a little adrenalin on me. We come from a long line of criers.