Collecting our Tears

The nurse was finishing up the preparations for mom, dad, and the new baby to leave the hospital and I was standing off to the side, waiting to play my part. The unique circumstances of their situation had given me the opportunity to be able to drive the happy family home from the hospital. The entire week prior had been filled with unexpected peace and contentment as I was caring for their other children, giving lots of hugs and rocking the littler one to sleep. It had been such a long time since I had had the pleasure of giving that kind of love. The Lord was keeping me afloat, allowing my heart to keep the unhelpful emotions at bay.

The hospital staff gave us the OK to leave. Mom and dad shuffled on ahead, careful not to strain their healing bodies, and I lifted the car seat, barely noticing the extra weight from the tiny body tucked safely inside. I left the room with a cheerful smile, grateful for the chance to be useful. After a few strides down the long corridor I had an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. I had been here before. I had been in this place, carrying this car seat, heading for home with a new life. I had been here before a hundred times in my mind, in my daydreams—only in my dream the baby in the seat had been mine.

A wave of dizziness overwhelmed me as the intensity of the emotions that had been held back for so long seemed to slam against the wall that was holding them back. My surroundings blurred and I had trouble seeing the hallway ahead of me. Not yet, Lord, I prayed. I can’t lose it now. Not yet. Just let me finish what needs to be done. I frantically searched for something else to focus on, something I could use to mentally plug up the leak that had sprung in the dam.

How do you handle the tears? Do you welcome them when it’s a convenient time and let them come unstifled, knowing that you will somehow feel better—cleansed in a way—when the spell is over? Or do the tears make everything worse for you, causing you to fall into a depression that’s hard to get out of? So often we’re just not sure what to do with the tears.

Perhaps we should all get ourselves a lachrymatory.

I know—I had never heard of it either until recently. It’s a special bottle used to collect tears. In ancient times it is believed that they were used to collect the tears of mourners. In Psalm 56:8 King David even refers to God as having His own lachrymatory: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”

David paints such a vivid picture for us of a loving God who is attentive to the most minute detail of our lives, who is ready and waiting with a bottle to catch every tear that falls from our eyes. The Lutheran Study Bible has a wonderful explanation of this verse.

God cares for His people and pays attention to their pain, fear, and grief. Though David tossed and turned in the night, stressed with anxiety, God has taken careful note of every single moment…God does not forget a single tear shed in grief…Such is the comforting depth of God’s love for His children. (p. 901)

The tears we shed in moments when we’re overcome serve more than just a biological purpose. They have a spiritual purpose as well. Just as the consumption of salt creates thirst in the body, these salty tears of sorrow should create in us a thirst for the Living Water, the Messiah, who told the Samaritan woman that whoever drank from this Water would never thirst again. He proclaimed to her and to you and to me: “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life,” (John 4:14).

The barren woman who thirsts for this Living Water can find it in God’s Holy Word, especially the Psalms. It is here that the Holy Spirit calms her troubled heart by revealing to her the mercies shown to the Lord’s servant, David, a man who has likewise tasted the salt of his own tears. The Living Water from his Savior replenished his soul and poured over into thousands of words that quench our thirst still today, more than two millennia later. May we imprint these words into our hearts so that they would well up within us as we look to that eternal life that has been promised where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” (Rev. 21:4).