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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The gift of tears

It comes to us from God's grace

In the Academy Award-winning animated film Spirited Away, a little girl gets lost in an abandoned theme park. She is befriended by a boy who gives her a cake that he says will give her back her strength. When she eats it, she starts crying.

There is strength in tears. We weep with gratitude over all the amazing gifts from God that come our way. We cry when we share moments of great elation with others. Tears enable us to get in touch with our deepest feelings. They help us express our grief at endings and the loss of those who are precious to us.

Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. He also wept over the city of Jerusalem —and in our time, we weep over Jerusalem and Fallujah and the refugee cities in Palestine and Sudan. A Yiddish proverb says: "What soap is for the baby, tears are for the soul."

The early Christian desert fathers and mothers had the highest regard for what they called "the gift of tears." Alan Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, says these drops "are like the breaking of the waters of the womb before the birth of a child." That's a wonderful way to describe the connection between pain and joy.


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