April 14, 2015
Last week I wrote about laughter… this week… well… read on.
For those who know me you know it doesn’t take much for me to get “emotional”. That’s a code word for “tears,” or “crying.” Talking about my kids does it, along with thinking about the woman who loves me. (That would be Ellen if you were wondering.) Honestly, I really don’t like the inability to control my emotions. More honestly… I despise that about myself. It’s embarrassing. And on occasion it’s a distraction from what I am trying to do or say. Now I say I “despise” while at the same time I recognize the importance. I can’t easily reconcile my feelings about the whole thing but I can tell you a story.
I was in my early teens when my mother died. There are many things about that event that I remember but one of the most significant recollections is the fact that I didn’t cry. I may have shed a tear… or not, but I have no memory of overt crying. From that moment on, I dreamt of my mother, at least weekly, for years. Each dream was the same. She would come back and tell me that she had never really died. She just needed to get away from my sisters and I for a while. I would get extremely angry and say, “Don’t you know what you have put us through!” Then the dream would end. I dreamt that scenario every week for 14 years. Now jump forward. Ellen and I are now married and our son David is 5. She was well aware of the “weekly visitations” by my mother. The three of us were driving near Hampton cemetery in Allison Park, PA and I said to Ellen, “I have never shown you where my mom is buried.” The truth is I had not been back to the cemetery since we laid her to rest 14 years before. I’m not a therapist but I suspect I was rather angry about her dying. Duh! The three of us walked up to the grave and I pointed to the headstone. Then totally… unexpectedly… a wave of grief overcame me. I had no control. I began to sob… loud, gut wrenching, “unmanly” sobs. David was confused and maybe a little frightened and kept pulling on Ellen’s skirt saying “Mommy, what’s wrong with Daddy?” She’s so smart. She gently held his hand and said, “Wait, just wait.” I don’t really know how long that all lasted but I can tell you this… I have never had one of those dreams since that day. Not one. Holding deep, painful emotion inside is simply not good for us.
I have heard too many people over the years say something like this, “My father never cried a day in his life.” And they say it as if it’s some sort of virtue?! With all due respect to those people’s fathers, those dads were broken; emotionally broken. I’m going to guess that for many of those men, they didn’t have any problem showing some emotions like anger, bitterness or total, quiet detachment, but love, sadness, grief… well, those things got pushed way down inside their psyches. Feelings that get stuffed eventually come out in other forms – cancer, heart problems, high blood pressure, ulcers, or uncontrolled emotions that erupt like a volcano. These things are not virtues! These are not what we should be modeling to our children and loved ones. They are tragic and honestly don’t make for good family relations, i.e., children raised by these fathers struggle to be healthy emotionally. (Though not always, of course.)
I don’t know how many times Jesus cried but we know of one occasion with which many are familiar. You may know it as the answer to the trivia question, “What’s the shortest verse in the Bible?” * John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” Do you know what he was weeping about? He had just learned that his friend Lazarus was dead. But his weeping was not just because he learned of that tragedy. In verse 33 John records, “33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” The last few words “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” actually come from a word for “snorting” like the sound a horse makes. Or in this case to “snort with anger.” Jesus wasn’t as much sad over the death of a friend as he was angry over the reality that death exists at all! None the less, he was moved to tears. Some translations say he “burst into tears.” I can only say this, “If it’s good enough for Jesus… well…”
Listen, you don’t have to be a “weeper” like me. But I tell you this. If you have nothing in your life that causes you to cry, or you deliberately fight back tears, you do yourself and those you claim to love no favors. If you have no tears, that’s a tragedy beyond words. I believe we are designed by God to be people of deep emotion. Get with the program and let the tears roll. And from last week… let them be mixed with laughter.
*Just for your amusement: http://www.thegoodbookblog.com/2012/oct/30/the-shortest-verse-in-the-new-testament/
What is the shortest verse in the New Testament? Did you respond “Jesus wept”? (Buzzer sound) No, that is the third shortest verse in the New Testament.
Granted, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) is the shortest verse in English. In English it is 9 letters long. But in Greek it is 16 letters long (Ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς).
For a long time I have known that there is a shorter verse in Greek. That is 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “rejoice always,” which is only 14 letters in Greek (Πάντοτε χαίρετε).
But a few years ago, one of my Greek students, Steven Malan, pointed out to me that there is a verse that is even shorter in Greek. That verse is Luke 20:30 “and the second,” which in Greek has only 12 letters (καὶ ὁ δεύτερος). This ridiculously short verse is found in the section where Jesus is being verbally challenged by the Sadducees (Luke 20:29-32): “Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; 30and the second 31and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32Finally the woman died also.”
So “Jesus wept” comes in third. “And the second” comes in first.