Tenderness and Tears

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Thoughts on our political landscape. . . 

Years ago I overheard this conversation between several high school senior girls. One of them was pregnant, and the previous evening she and her boyfriend had informed her parents. “How’d it go?” they asked her in unison. She hung her head and replied, “It was worse than I expected. I thought they’d be really mad, but instead they were really sad.”

Her comment made a deep impression on me, because it forced me to ponder the connection between anger and sorrow. Why would this young woman consider sadness worse than anger? I suspect it’s because sadness is evidence of a very deep, emotional connection to a difficult situation, whereas anger is oppositional and builds walls. This 17 year old thought she might find some protection behind the walls of anger, but instead discovered that their sin caused her parents deep pain, and she was intimately bonded with them in this pain. (And I know that today she would say that her parents’ grief was the greatest gift they could have given her.)

The baby born to them is now 30 years old, but lately I find myself pondering her comment a great deal.

Last month I preached at a nearby CRC church, and before the service an elder described for me a project he and a team were working on. The project was encountering some obstacles, and he planned to describe these obstacles during a sharing time before the congregational prayer. I was moved by our conversation, and made a brief reference to the project in the sermon. During the sharing time, he picked up on the reference in the sermon, and then began to weep with microphone in hand. He was not embarrassed, and there was no awkward tension in the church. Everyone waited quietly as he composed himself, and then with no hint of self-consciousness he completed his announcement.

I can picture the teenager and the elder standing side by side in my mind, and the picture might be captioned “Tenderness and Tears.” As I see them standing there, a sturdy, gracious power flows from the picture, power that resonates with two Biblical pictures: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you shalom—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  (Luke 19:  41-42). In II Cor. 12: 9, we find the Lord’s words to Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Years ago, one of my pastor/mentors said to me, "I'm always on the lookout for signs that the Spirit is moving in our congregation, and one of the signs I look for is weeping." Another pastor prayed, “Lord, make us potatoes and not eggs,” and then he explained, “Life is often like an immersion in boiling water; potatoes become softer, eggs become harder.”

I have tasted the power and joy of the Spirit in tenderness and tears.  I bet you have too.

And it’s not surprising.  Isaiah foresaw the suffering servant who weeps on Palm Sunday as he wrote, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.”  (Is. 42: 1-4a)

As the US election date draws nearer—a date being closely watched on both sides of our border—my prayer is that the Christian voice will increasingly become shaped by tenderness and tears, tenderizing tears that weep over the blindness to God’s shalom and that nourish bruised reeds, flowing in harmony with that pregnant teen and courageous elder, following the suffering servant on that steep and winding road into Jerusalem.

Imagine if millions of Christians became a public community of tenderness and tears in the midst of (as Macbeth declares) “a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.” What a witness to the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that would be.  

Lord, make us all potatoes and not eggs.

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Beautifully said, Syd, and worthy of reflection and action!  Thanks for these words of wisdom and challenge.

Jeanne Kallemeyn

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