This past year, I went through a period of silence.
My normal unhurried times with God, usually the bread of His presence and the wine of His tenderness, had become a famine, a sort of Eucharist of dissolution.
During many of those hours, God surprised me with tears. Not knowing fully why I cried, I remembered how an older gentleman explained to me that he felt, in a similar season, that the Holy Spirit wept through him. Looking back on that long stretch, I believe God knew I would be strengthened in no other way. I began to bow to God, and receive the strength of tears.
In Psalm 42, we hear out of the desperate cry of the son’s of Korah, “My tears have been my food.”
In my last blog post, I mentioned how the son’s described their soul panting, a visceral desperation, which leads us inward. Tears are what nourish us when the path becomes untamed.
The Son’s of Korah knew when nothing else worked, God designed tears to function as fuel for the grit we need, to stay under the long wait of suffering, and to learn the lessons for which He has ordained. Tears signal we no longer fight under the discipline, but have surrendered.
Not only have I walked through a famine of silence, but also of loss. It began with a friend’s memorial. I had said my goodbyes to her, kissed her forehead while she was still able to smile. I breathed a prayer of goodbye, and knew I would not see her again. But I didn’t cry, not in that hour. God saved that for the three hours we honored her, not so much as a saint, but a human being. In those hours, God fed me tears; and as I reflect, it was as though all of her convictions, shared so beautifully through others, fell like tear drops into the parched soil of my heart.
When tears feed us, we have synthesized the brokenness of our Lord Jesus in the garden, where he wailed to God through tears. The intensity of pressure he felt, caused him to sweat blood. He had nothing left but tears. Those tears fed Him, helped him settle it once for all, and most importantly, gave him endurance to finally hear the voice of His father, whispering, ‘without the shedding your blood, my dear Son, there will be no forgiveness for them.’ If we identify with Him in this hour of prayer, we will learn the value of tears to nourish us, and to comfort. He will take as long as necessary to teach us this lesson of surrender.
When Ginnette’s mom passed, I officiated her homecoming service. While I waited to speak, listening to the words of friends and loved ones, tears pressed out of my eyes, involuntarily. They were the food I needed to be strong for those who needed comfort.
Then this summer, at our staff conference, tears unexpectedly fell again. All across that outer court of the sanctuary called Moby Gym on the campus of Colorado State University, we watched as a man spoke. He told his story of rescue as an infant on the eve of the fall of Vietnam. The ground he stood on seemed a holy place. What other explanation can be offered for the tears that flowed in those few minutes he addressed us. All across the expanse, people brushed a salty mist from their eyes. There was a moment when I knew why, and suddenly the enormity of the significance of tears began to dawn on me. We were suddenly on that beach with him, felt the raw fear of his parents seeing the boat had left, all hope of rescue gone, but then how miraculously it returned. We felt the break in his voice when he told how his mom tied him to her body, saying, “if you die, I die!” God broke into that moment, and those whose lives were gospel by name, became gospel by tears. It was tears God used to confirm the rightness of his words, and to help us fall in love again with the beauty and anguish that is the gospel. Without saying it, he asked us to identify with the tears of the world, and our response was to weep for our own brokenness. The tears were our food, our nourishment to receive this Gospel afresh, and be restored in our belief that He will move again in our time, through the brokenness of a generation, and the willingness of all to follow Him in tears of surrender.
Can you identify with Korah, “My tears have been my food?”
“Father, bring us to that place of famine, so that you may feed us. For unless we go there, we risk a conventional gospel, and an erroneous belief, that we can walk this road without the food of tears.”