Seeing Through Tears
I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.
-Nicholas Woltersorff/ Lament for a Son
I’ve seen the world through a curtain of tears–a pair of lenses I can’t seem to lose or break.
They tumbled out of my fourteen-year-old eyes as I stared listlessly at my desk. My legs swung beneath me—a thousand tiny red pin-pricks covered my skin and betrayed a broken body. Normal people have 150 to 400 thousand platelets on their lab reports; I hovered around one. As I rocked back in my chair, my mind raced with questions a middle-schooler isn’t supposed to ask. What if that jostle earlier caused too much damage? What if this headache is really internal bleeding? How will I know in time? Endless questions circled my mind and tumbled out through my eyelids as heavy drops. I cried out to God for every what-if that gnawed in my heart and begged for his nearness. My weeping heart brought to mind the truths I had been told so often—God was mighty, and he loved me so very much.
I wiped at my face, and through my falling tears I saw my King—the One more powerful than any fear that lurked in my shadows.
Years passed full of broken hearts, hurt feelings, and adolescent angst, while the waves of tears lapped dependably upon my shore. My tears even squeezed their way into my dreams, as my eyes shot open in my college dorm room one morning. The iridescent numbers on my clock announced dawn was far from reach. After a few minutes of insomnia, I quietly climbed down from my loft and slipped out the door. The hall was silent. It was far too late for drunk partiers and far too early for the sober—except for me. I walked towards the stairwell as the tears tumbled down my cheeks. I couldn’t shake my dream. As I reached the curving stairs, I planted myself on a step and pulled my knees close to my chest. Hurt washed over as questions swirled in my head. How could this happen? I looked up to him, and he let me down. The spiritual mentor who was instrumental in pushing me toward Christ now caused only confusion and hurt. Lord help me trust in you. You alone are good.
I wiped at my face, and through my falling tears I saw my righteous Savior—the One who would forever be faithful.
Life moved fast. Adulthood came calling with school loans, rental contracts, and career prospects. An auburn-haired boy with glasses brought tears of joy along with the ring he slipped around my finger. We lumbered through the better, the richer, and the health, until the tears came flooding through the sickness.
One exhausted night I rocked back and forth, attempting to comfort the screaming infant against my chest. As we swung in rhythm, I softly patted her back. She was helpless, completely dependent on her mother and father. She didn’t understand it was 2AM; she just knew something wasn’t right, and she needed someone to hold her through the pain.
My own tears spilled down my face as I clutched my daughter closer. I had been living through weeks of fevers, medical tests, antibiotics, and trips to the emergency room. Why haven’t you healed me, Lord? God, please, let them figure out what’s wrong. I’m tired of hurting. It’s not supposed to be like this.
Two daughters rocked in a chair, in a world that wasn’t as it was supposed to be. I didn’t find answers that night. God didn’t tell me when the pain would stop.
Yet as my daughter calmed against my chest, I wiped at my face, and through my tears I saw my loving Father—holding me close in the midst of my pain.
My infection founds its end in surgery, but it wasn’t the last. Tears continued to fall through four more surgeries in the years to come—each tear revealing more clearly the tender grip of my Father. Years later I stretched out across a hospital bed, adjusting my body in a familiar routine. But this bed was different—it wasn’t mine. I eased closer to snuggle my five-year-old swimming in his hospital gown beside me.
The last few days had been rough, but what scared me more was the next twenty years ahead. Diabetes wasn’t going anywhere. Tears of exhaustion, fear, and pity spilled out of my eyes as I looked at my son. I don’t know what I’m doing. How do I protect him? I prayed to the Lord who said he’d be my Shepherd—the One who promised to never leave me in the valley of the shadow of death.
I wiped at my face, and through my tears I saw my son’s gentle Shepherd—faithfully protecting and guiding him through every dark valley to come.
Many tears have rushed through the landscape of my life in these thirty-five years. Some were the trickle of a stream, while others crashed like raging rapids. Yet each one clarified my understanding of the promises of the Lord and his character. Like lenses they adjusted my vision, allowing me to see my Savior clearer than I would have in the dry seasons of ease.
I don’t know what other grief lies ahead. I do know the tears will continue. They’ll sneak in between my pillow in silence or loudly announce themselves in the arms of a friend. Through the prism of those future tears my view of God will continue to be enriched with each glance.
And one day those tears will release once again with abandon. They’ll spill over my face and I won’t be able to control them. They’ll hold the weight of a lifetime of sorrows, griefs, and joys. And I’ll wipe once more at my face, and through the tears, I’ll see my Jesus—his real, God-in-flesh face, before my eyes.
I’ll finally catch sight of the One mightier than all of my fears, the One who remained faithful to the end, the Shepherd who held, guided, and comforted each of his little precious little lambs. And through these flowing tears, I’ll see the gentle hand of my Redeemer wipe away every last one.
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