Sometimes I cry what I have begun to call “stupid tears.” These are those stubborn sobs that start for no apparent reason when I am all alone, and continue despite of my frustrated attempts to curtail them. They usually come after a stress event. A minor disagreement with a store clerk can lead to stupid tears that flow once I’ve climbed into my car.
Recently, for me, it was a phone call from a newspaper. A few days before, a thoughtless editorial cartoon had run in our local paper, depicting a man wearing striped pants, who was too busy watching a popular television show to talk to his son, who was calling from Iraq. What a slap in the face of those of us who have a soldier at war! As I thought about it, it really began to irritate me, until I finally wrote a letter to the paper’s editor. A few days later, a representative from the paper called, first to verify that I had indeed written, and then to explain the cartoonist’s thought process in his use of the Uncle Sam figure. I suppose he was trying to make me feel better, but I fully understood the cartoon, and still thought it insulting to military families, so I just got annoyed again. I tried to hold it together while we spoke, but the stupid tears were already emerging as we hung up.
Sad and angry and lonely all at once, I cried out with incoherent expressions to God. The stupid tears began to flow freely. I simply could not stop them.
What can we do about stupid tears? Sometimes I just go ahead and let them run their course. But, I’ve also found that they can ruin my mood for more than just a few minutes, if I allow them to. God does not want me to wallow in tears for hours on end. He sends His Spirit to gently nudge me. Get up; go out; see people, talk to someone! Just don’t sit there, alone and sobbing!
Providentially that day, at that very same time, my daughter was on the computer ‘talking’ to me from Germany, where her husband was stationed. I had already told her about the cartoon, so now I told her about the phone call, and my stupid tears. That helped a little. I wrote for awhile. The stupid tears were only intermittent now. But it took getting up and going outside to play with our puppy and listen to the birds chirping to chase them off entirely.
For the past several years, since my soldier has returned, I have not had any bouts of stupid tears. I have moved along methodically, missing my children and grandchildren who are all too far away, and I have handled many ups and downs of life without the appearance of any more tears.
I rose to let the dogs out in the middle of the night, and as usual, checked my computer to see if my daughter, who has now been stationed in South Korea for nearly two years, has been online. Tonight she had posted an adorable picture of herself and her eldest daughter, a “selfie” as it is called, just their faces, close up and beautiful. It was wonderful. I brought the dogs in, settled back into bed and began to drift off listening to a bit of music when suddenly the stupid tears hit me by surprise. I just cried and cried and cried. I miss my girls so very much!
Stupid tears may still come, but I’ve grown to realize that they are okay sometimes. They can cleanse our souls of dirt and dust and all the clutter that has built up over time. And God will wipe them away, when we are ready. I’m so glad He can even understand my sobbing, unintelligible mutterings and that He gives me comfort whenever the stupid tears begin to flow.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27 NIV).