Tears, weeping, crying, sobbing in the Lenten season

Published 9:10 am Friday, March 27, 2015

It seems more than a coincidence, that in the past week, certain terms and expressions have been part of my observations. Our deepest emotions are expressed with feelings around tears, weeping, crying, sobbing. These are the words that have almost magically popped out of events I’ve attended, conversations with people, or reading.

The following remarks illustrate how particular words — shall I say — just won’t go away? Or is it that certain expressions can embrace a part of the world in which we cannot get away from?

In reading the book The Polish-Americans, in part written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former U.S. Senator, important information connects with me, since one of my grandmothers immigrated from Poland. Note, often the place of entry to America was New York City’s Ellis Island. We read: “In reality, the island of tears gave immigrants a taste of what the nation itself held in store for them.”

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I did more reading this week than usual. Just to inform you, by the way, for both my wife, Becky — a library board member for nine years — and myself, reading is like a chronic itch! We have both read Anthony Trollope and are drawn to think and rethink, and respond to words like: “Let an author so tell his tale, as to touch his reader’s heart and draw his tears, and then he has done his work well.” We agree.

In reading Ernest Hemingway, starting with assignments at Augsburg College, my memory is sufficient to recall the scenes that brought weeping to his characters. The book on Hemingway by Joe Haldeman, identifies one of the characters as “seeing the man’s life as one complex chord of beauty, purpose, ugliness, and chaos — holding himself, rocking, racked with sobs.”

In this time of Lent, many persons make a special effort at some spiritual, compassion-affirming manners and deeds. At a recent Lenten Service at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Austin, a hymn was sung: “Lord Jesus, You Shall Be My Song.” Words referring to Jesus were sung by those of the congregation: “to carry your cross and to share all your burdens and fears.” A hymn of sacred identification for Lent adds the line to ponder, of Jesus stating “the human friend of tears.”

My application of the subject, has to include the line from Robert Frost, “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” With that orientation and insight, I invite you to think, really reflect on how tears, weeping, crying, sobbing are woven into your life. There are seven areas or territories (there are many more actually!), that each person can explore and reclaim a new depth of one’s heart.

One: Grief. In attending two funerals in the past week, I hugged some people and saw the shedding of tears. It’s not only in death, we know, but many incidents or accidents in our journey, that bend us over in hurt. And with questions. But let us console each other; let us in love and grieve with those who need our support.

Two: Joy is also a part of our journey; sometimes, strangely mixed with pain. My witness to joy is especially in persons coming together in marriage. Some of us are yet struggling with gender issues in the pledges of holy matrimony. I’m still getting accustomed to patterns that are changing. Yet for most persons, joy seems present.

Three: The birth of a child creates an emotion in which I’ve seen parents jump, dance, and sob in each others arms. Yes!

Four: Recovery from surgery can be a source of more than moist eyes; sheer thankfulness. “She made it …”

Five: Survival from an accident brings forth weeping, as a passenger from your vehicle is in trauma and is being transported to an ambulance.

Six: The good news in person-to-person contact with management where you are told: “You are the applicant that we invite to join our firm.” And you think in your gratefulness, “did that staff person see the tears on my cheeks?”

Seven: Being part of a winning team brings a flood of mutual sobbing where it doesn’t matter if the jerseys get stained as Lyle-Pacelli’s girls’ basketball team, with a well-fought wins and a trip to the state tournament. I know of one of the girls, who will likely find her way to St. Augustine’s Catholic Church with a spirit of thankfulness. Of course, it is the season of Lent and many of us may create a sacred space where tearful eyes invite a Presence that is only known as a hint.

Marv Repinski is a retired United Methodist pastor.