A couple weeks ago I reached out to my friend Angela via text. In that conversation, I mentioned that I find myself crying lots but that I’m not sad. She texted back admonishing me not to forget the “gift of tears.” I’d never heard of the gift of tears and the quotation marks in her text told me it was a thing, so I looked it up.
This article said the gift of tears is a "phenomenon mentioned in spiritual writers since very early in the Church, and it refers to an intense personal experience of God that overflows in abundant tears. It is the overflow of a spiritual experience in an emotional/physiological expression that creates deep comfort in one’s soul, and deep encouragement for the person who receives the gift, . . .”
Lo, and behold, I think Our Lord has given me the gift of tears, at least for a season. It’s difficult to describe, but the tears seem purifying, a lot like prayer. They come unbidden and seem to be an expression of one of two things: deep gratitude that I haven’t the words to express or intercessory prayer where I have little knowledge of the facts, but sorrow over the need.
It’s not easy to describe, but I want to give it a try. One of my “happy places” is a large cemetery. I go there often to walk and pray. Here, the tears sometimes flow, feeling like intercessory prayers. Often tombstones deliver sorrow to my senses and I experience significant awareness of the pain in our world, that person’s pain, their family’s pain. I offer up my tears and the tears and pain that that tombstone represents for those people and their descendants.
Recently, I stumbled across a couple who, decades ago, lost four children under 10 years old. Two of those deaths were in the same year. The crushing grief! It is almost too great to think about. But it can illustrate how I think God may be using the “gift of tears” as a form of intercessory prayer.
Did these parents’ grief send them to God or did they grow bitter? Did they raise their other children in gentleness and grace or harshness and severity that sprung out of crushing grief? Did the other children grow despondent? Did they carry dysfunctional grief into their adulthood, damaging their children, who in turn damaged their children, and on and on and on. Tombstones represent people with eternal souls, not just the soul named on the tombstone, but the souls deeply impacted by him or her, too. God is all powerful and outside of time. How does God use my prayerful tears? I have absolutely no idea, but I know He is not bound by time and He is full of mercy. My cemetery prayers rise to Him and are not “too late” to make a difference. Many tombstones belong to souls in purgatory and I present those souls to Him through, what I have recently come to think of as, intercessory tears.
Regarding how the “gift of tears” are expressions of gratitude, I will use my daughter, Deborah, to illustrate. For years, I wondered why on earth God would allow what He allowed in Deborah’s life. I assumed I would never have any clarity this side of heaven.
Deborah’s life was marked by nearly every sin imaginable. That she is alive, is probably a miracle in itself. Recently a photograph of Deborah brought on tears of gratitude that words couldn’t express. The picture was on the day of her confirmation and it portrayed at transformed person. In it, I saw how God had even changed her countenance. The tears, laden with thanksgiving were also purifying. I realized how contrary to what I had assumed – that I’d not see any answers to why her life unfolded as it did this side of heaven – I saw her powerful redemption story in her countenance.
I can say in absolute honesty, if Deborah’s wild years were required to make her into who she is today, a young lady who wants Jesus to be #1 in every area of her life, then I’m so grateful for those years. I’d willingly go through those years again. I’d willingly go through even worse. What a breakthrough this is for me! Those years, and even the memory of those years, are shrouded in such darkness and despair. But now I see a reason to view them with thanksgiving and purpose. Deborah put her whole heart into rejecting everything good. She practically mastered the art of putting her whole heart into something. Praise be to Jesus Christ, with that expertise she is now putting her whole heart into pursuing Jesus.
And the tears flow. They are tears of inexpressible gratitude. They are prayer. The tears are communion with God.