"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 “Tears are God’s gift to us. Our holy water. They heal us as they flow.” Rita Schiano Maybe all we really need these days is a good cry. Hidefumi Yoshida is a ‘tear teacher’. He travels across Japan encouraging adults to cry more. This is no small wonder, given that the Japanese culture has a low tolerance for crying and parents train their babies to NOT cry. Holding back tears is considered a virtue. Yet, with the use of sad films, emotional letters and children’s books, Yoshida has helped over 50,000 adults to cry. His clients say that by crying more routinely, they experience a stronger immune system, better health, emotional growth and greater happiness. Some even remark they feel so refreshed, it feels like they have taken a warm bath after a tears therapy session. I see Yoshida’s work as an extension of God’s heart, who encourages humans to express emotional distress, not repress it. When Hagar lifted up her voice in the wilderness, God drew near (Genesis 21:17). When Hannah wept bitterly outside the temple, God noticed and remembered (1 Samuel 1:10,17). When David became weary with moaning, God didn’t become weary with listening (Psalm 6:6-9). Christine Jurisich, a spiritual director, retreat leader and founder of Retreat,Reflect,Renew writes about moments when feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration are so great there are no words to pray, with tears being the only prayer that brings peace. “Since losing my son three years ago, I often have no words to pray. The first time this happened was in the beginning of my grief journey. I was at church and couldn’t stop crying. I found myself staring at a big teardrop that had fallen from my eye onto the pew in front of me. I just stared at it, honoring all the pain and sadness inside of it, and prayed to God, 'This is for You. You know everything inside that tear. Take it from me and hold it for me.' That prayer was such a helpful release for me. It gave me such comfort to picture God holding my tears." Jurisich goes on to say how tears open an honest dialogue with the Divine: “Crying brings you to a place of pure, raw honesty. In the middle of a cry, you admit everything that has been hidden in your heart and allow it to flow to the surface of your being. It is in that authenticity that you are in a place of full surrender and humility before God. There is no language that can match the depth of this type of emotion.” What both Yoshida and Jurisich are pointing to is this: Tears are a sacred experience tracing back to centuries ago in the Christian tradition, where crying was a spiritual practice. “Tears for the desert fathers and mothers were the doorway to holiness. Tears, 'confirmed humans’ readiness to allow their life to fall apart in the dark night of the soul, and their willingness to assume new life in the resurrection of the dead,'” said Jurisich. St. Ephrem the Syrian (303-373), a Doctor of the Church said, “Until you have cried, you don’t know God.” St. John Climacus (579-649) believed tears are a way of knowing ourselves. “As a symbol of washing, tears cleanse the eyes for us to see but also for us to be seen by God in prayer.” In the Middle Ages, weeping became more systematized and ritualized as many Christian writers created instructional guides on the process of holy crying as a way to communicate with the Divine. In Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue, she lists five varieties of tears as stages of growth” (Jurisich).
Pause and reflect on the last time you cried. What did your tears teach you? Maybe a desire or need you were unable to name. Maybe your tears uncovered a deeper connection to your true self. Feel God holding you and feel no shame.