The tears start to form and flow, but who will wipe my tears? A soft and gentle hand comes with tenderness to the pain.
I could feel them start to congregate right in the corners of my eyes. They were coming together, and I had no control over them. Soon they would tip over the edge and be seen.
Grab the tissues. Dab them away. Silence the flow.
Don’t want them to be seen by anyone and have attention drawn to me. That inner world must remain unknown, unrevealed, and untouched. Tears show vulnerability.
Then I felt a hand gently under my chin. It lifted my head, and with the gentleness of soft knowing, they dabbed and touched the corners of my eyes. Every tear that was formed was absorbed seemingly into themselves.
They took them in like long-lost strangers. I heard a whisper – ‘Your tears are safe with me.’
I was known
I was loved
I was held
Sometimes as I talk with people online, I wish I could reach through the screen and sacrificially wipe and dap at their tears. Simply as a gift of connection from one teary-eyed pilgrim to another.
We all have, I believe, seemingly a vast reservoir of tears unshed.
Grief, loss, hurt, and pain all contribute rivers that flow into the reservoir. But, then, a moment happens that turns the tap ever so slightly, and the pressure of holding it all in breaks through.
Our emotions become a tangible, tactile reality in the corners of our eyes.
I keep thinking of those who cannot wipe their tears away.
Perhaps they have no limbs to do so with.? Maybe they have lost the neurological capacity to move their limbs. They require someone else to do much of what we take for granted.
Then a tear begins to form and needs the most gentle and compassionate touch. Perhaps there is no one there to notice and attend.
Who will wipe my tears?
I am reassured that the God of the vast, vast universe is also intimate with every tear. Those that have been shed, those stored up, and those about to tip over the edge.
The songwriter of Psalm 56 describes this intimacy
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
Bottle – a (skin or leather) bag (for fluids)
Imagine someone wiping the tears from your eyes.
A follower of Jesus, John, writing to some persecuted early believers, sheds these beautiful words of hope.
[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away. Revelation 21:4
In the first place, God is not taking away the pain, instead, God is coming with connection to the pain. Gentleness and compassion reach out to the sensitive corners of our lives and pulls the vulnerable release away. ‘I am with you’ becomes ‘Your pain is known.’
When your tears become a flow, when whimpers become deep moans, when you’ve truly lost any sense of self-composure, you want silence from others, a warm hand, and a presence that accepts the tiredness of holding it all in.
Your tears are safe with me.
Life is hard.
People can be harsh.
Broken world, broken people, broken decisions and broken choices.
We bare the pain of choices we have made and the choices others have made.
It can be a mess.
I want something new to come together out of all this brokenness, rubble, and mess.
I wonder if all the tears that we have shed are to be used as a kind of water source for some new gardening project God has in store. What are they there for if they are stored up in some metaphorical leather wineskin as the Psalmist sings?
John, the prophetic pastor, continues to show what God is up to.
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Revelation 21:5
Out of brokenness comes the germination of something new.
Out of death comes resurrection.
I hold on to my box of tissues and dab away at my tears and the tears of others.
I often wait, with some impatience, for something new to be made out of all this overflow. It will come, I get glimmers of it every day, and so I wait and participate in God’s ‘making all things new.’
It takes some courage and vulnerability to dab at the tears of others. The intimate closeness that says, ‘Here, let me. You don’t have to go it alone.’
It’s always uncomfortable when your learning to walk on water.
Quotes to consider
- Most of us are spared life-wrenching tragedy, but none of us escapes the heartache of living in a fallen world. Dan Allender
- In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience—our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Brené Brown
- Compassion for yourself is where you start when things are tough, not where you stop. Rick Hanson
- Compassion means entering the suffering of another in order to lead the way out. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
- Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
St. Teresa of Ávila
Questions to answer
- What emotions and thoughts swirled within you when I wrote about those with a physical inability to wipe their own tears away?
- Who has been there for you when the tears have touched the corners of your eyes?
- What makes someone safe enough to touch your tears?