I shed a few more tears this morning, but that’s okay. There is no doubt that I’ve cried more in 2019 than any year since my early childhood.
This morning it was prompted by reading the story of a couple losing their 15-year-old son earlier this month. As I was reading of their steadfast hope in the sovereignty of God over the lifespan of their precious boy, I was encouraged as I continue to process the passing of my Mom. When Mom was being formed in her own mother’s womb, God knew her birth date, and her death date, and every day in between. That comforts me.
But I recognize that more tears will come. They tend to show up at those dreaded firsts… first birthday without her (April), first Mother’s Day (May), her first birthday in Heaven (October), first Thanksgiving (November), and now, fast approaching, our first Christmas and New Year without her.
Yes, more tears will come.
It’s not that I’m an overly emotional guy. Truth be told, prior to this year, I may have had my eyes moisten on occasion during a touching scene in a movie or reading a heartbreaking story, but I would go months on end without actually shedding tears. In fact, I suspect there were many years beyond my early childhood that I probably didn’t cry at all.
Prior to this year, I had heard that the death of a mother, especially one as good as mine, can be devastatingly painful. Now that I’ve experienced it, I concur.
Some may wonder, “Why are you so public about your grief?” Or some may ask, “Isn’t it time to move on?” And still others may think, “Real men don’t cry. Suck it up. Man up.”
Permit me to briefly address each of these sentiments…
1. “Why are you so public about your grief?”
(a) Because I am a extrovert, which means I process things outwardly, verbally. If you are an introvert, you process things inwardly and may have a hard time understanding those of us who need to process things in this way. But for the extrovert, processing our grief by discussing it publicly is part of our healing. Have patience with us.
(b) Because I am a pastor and my heart is to help others. By communicating my emotions, my disappointments, and my unrelenting hope in God, I am, perhaps, providing some ray of hope for others who are grieving, as well as reminding them that they are not alone.
2. “Isn’t it time to move on?”
No one has said this to me, so please don’t think I am reacting to anyone in particular’s insensitivity. But I have witnessed this attitude on occasion in regard to someone else’s grief, and I have, I confess, thought this myself before.
My Mom died in March. Here it is nine months later, and I am still speaking of, and in this case, writing about, my grief. Waves of grief, with accompanying tears, still come. At what point do I “move on”? Isn’t it time to move on?
Pardon my bluntness on this one, but the answer to the question is… NO. It’s not time to move on, and it never will be. Outside of God, Who is my Creator, my Savior, and my Lord, there are two people who have had the most influence in my life, my Mom and my Dad. To lose someone of this measure in one’s life is not something where one just flips a switch and is able to “move on.”
That said, grieving is for a season. And it is appropriate and healthy to desire and look to MOVE FORWARD from the season of grief and seek to return to a life characterized by peace and joy. It isn’t returning to “normal” but is learning to live by faith, with hope, in the “new normal” of life… a life in which a significant person is now absent.
3. “Real men don’t cry. Suck it up. Man up.”
Lies. The truth is that real men DO cry. There was never more of a man than the Lord Jesus Christ. Forget that milquetoast, weak, effeminate image of Jesus that has been falsely perpetuated in some environments. While on the earth, Jesus overturned massive, heavy tables in the Temple courts, boldly confronted hypocrites and abusive authorities, and today has eyes like flaming fire (Rev. 1.14). Yet, Jesus was not afraid to shed tears. Not out of fear or cowardice, but out of compassion and, at least once, at the death of a friend (John 11.35).
I don’t apologize for my tears. I’m not saying a man, or woman, should be weeping at the drop of a hat or in settings that would upset or unreasonably disturb others. Part of the fruit of a Spirit-filled life is self-control (Galatians 5.23). But to always hold back the tears is to potentially thwart one of God’s tools for healing of the heart.
Ladies, I don’t suspect you struggle with letting the tears flow as much as we men do. I remember twenty-five years ago, a good friend of mine, Angie (she now has an awesome podcast that you should check out HERE), told me she cried a few times a week. She told me that every few days most girls needed a good cry. I remember thinking, “What’s so good about crying?” Now I know.
So, guys, I’m talking to you. It’s okay. When in a season of grief, let the tears flow. Have a good cry. Healing will come.