Every Sunday morning, our elders at Freshwater Church Bolivar gather together just before morning worship to talk through the service and pray for God's blessing upon our gathering. Yesterday began no differently. At about 8:40, our lead pastor, associate pastor, worship pastor, and I gathered in our staff office, joined by our lead pastor's father and one of our church planting interns, to begin our day of worship with corporate prayer.
Before I even arrived, I knew yesterday was a big day for this particular intern as he had the task of preaching the sixth and final message of our series on Paul's letter to the Galatians. However, before we prayed, he shared something that added a whole new level of gravity to the morning. He shared that his sister, a new believer, was not only coming to the service to hear him preach, but also bringing a special someone along with her. He went on to explain that the only guess he had as to this mystery attendee's identity was that it was his mother.
This didn't seem like a huge deal until he began to share with the rest of us that his mother was not a believer, and that his calling to preach the gospel had strained their relationship to the point that they talked very little, definitely not about the things of God.
A strange thing happened as he asked us to pray on his behalf that he would preach the word faithfully and that if, indeed, his mother did come, that his words would clearly communicate to her her need for salvation through Jesus Christ. As he spoke, I not only saw the tension in my friend's heart as he shared this request for prayer…I also felt it. It was not, though, as if I simply felt mild sympathy for my brother in this moment. No, my heart was rent, knowing that he wanted so badly for his mother to hear the gospel proclaimed that he was having to force himself to avoid getting his hopes too high so as to prevent disappointment should his mother not actually be the person his sister was bringing along.
As luck would have it, once discussion and sharing ceased, our lead pastor asked me to pray. Apparently I was not outwardly showing the inward chaos that had consumed me. Inside, I felt as emotionally stable as a crowd leaving a 24-hour Nicholas Sparks film festival. Thus, for all my attempts to speak, nothing came…all I could do was tear up and weep. At that moment, I wanted so badly for my brother's mother to be saved that all I could do was cry and do my best to intermittently babble something I hope was semi-comprehensible for the sake of my comrades in the room. What's most interesting about this to me is that while I am certainly no stoic when it comes to emotion, I don't think I'm much of a crier. Tears are not one of my more natural reactions, but here they came in heavy supply nonetheless.
Of course, my male mind is poisoned with a million culturally-ingrained predispositions against crying, so afterwards I began to feel as though maybe I should attempt to explain, justify, or even worse, apologize for any awkwardness my momentary lapse of control had caused. Fortunately, I didn't.
As soon as such thoughts of apology began to creep in, my mind flashed back to the story of Lazarus, specifically when Jesus approached, fully knowing that he could and would raise Lazarus from the dead. When he saw Lazarus' family in the throes of grief over their loss, Jesus did not simply tell them that everything was going to be okay or that they needed to pull it together. He did not hit them with a big questioning speech about where their faith was. No, he wept. He saw and felt the pain of the people he loved. His heart was rent along with theirs and he gave vent to his tears, no apologies.
And as I recalled this instance, I honestly felt in my heart of hearts that to apologize for a moment when the Spirit of God allowed me the privilege of deeply feeling a brother's angst would not just be unnecessary, it would be wrong.
There will come a day when there will be no more tears (Rev. 21:4), but that's not today; today, even as we rejoice with those who rejoice, we will weep with those who weep; and we will thank God even for the blessing of holy tears.