FIRST, YOU CRY
By DANNY MINTON
The date was sometime in January 1966 when I lay in bed, alone in a hospital room at Baylor medical center, encased in a body cast that engulfed the upper half of my body. I had been in the hospital over a month after breaking a vertebra in my neck. It didn’t hurt when it happened, and there was little pain. But lying there, in that room alone, for the first time in over a month, I cried. The idea of being like this for another six weeks was overwhelming. That was the only time I cried during that six-month recovery.
I do not remember the day or month that the principal came to my class and told me I had a call in the office. He took over my class, and I went to the phone to receive devastating news from my wife. Our newborn adoptive child was going to be severely handicapped due to brain damage. Kathy picked me up at school a short time later, and we drove down a side street pulled over to the side of the road and cried.
I have sat in a room where people in tears have shared their relationship struggles. Some have been marriages that are breaking, others have been boyfriend or girlfriend pains, and others have been over a child who has made the wrong choices in his or her life.
I am asked to perform the memorial service for many people who have passed. It comes as no surprise that the first thing people do when a loved one passes is to cry. In most cases, when someone finds out they have cancer or some other life-threating disease, the first thing they do is tear up and silently cry within themselves.
If you stop to think about it, the first thing we do in this world is cry. We are brought naked, wet, and cold into a world with which we are unfamiliar, pulled from a warm, safe, and secure environment. The first thing everyone in the room expects of us is to cry. For a while, that’s all we do, cry. We cry when we are hungry. We cry when we are wet. We cry when we are cold. We cry when we’re angry. We cry when we want to be loved.
It’s natural and healthy to cry. It relieves the stress and tension that builds up when life isn’t going the way we expected. It’s a response that allows us to express our immediate feelings. It clears our minds and can allow us to move on to the next step.
First, we cry, and that’s good. Then we can take a tissue, wipe our eyes, clear our nose, take a sip of water, then lean back with a clear mind. Now what? At this point, we have a choice to make. Do we remain in a state of depression, or do we look at how we can move forward? It doesn’t mean we won’t cry again, we probably will. However, if we focus on what needs to be done to make life return, we can learn that the things that hurt us now, can, in the end, make us stronger.
I missed out on several things with a broken neck, but I didn’t let it keep me from enjoying my senior year in high school. With the support of friends and loved ones, I made it without ever again feeling sorry for myself.
Our son’s doctor advised us to give him back to the adoption agency since it hadn’t been finalized. We decided if he had been our natural child, we couldn’t do that so we decided to remain his parents come what may come. There were numerous tears over the years, but the joys outweighed them all.
As I comb through God’s word, I see many great men and women who have cried. Jacob wept when he thought Joseph died from being attacked by wild animals. Joseph wept when he saw his brothers after so many years. Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth wept when they parted. David wept, Samuel wept, Hannah wept, Hezekiah wept, Mary and Martha wept, the disciples wept, and even Jesus wept. There are times we all cry, and that’s okay.
The most important thing is that after we have had our time to weep that we get up and move on the best we can. We may have no idea what the next hour, day, or month will bring, but when we join our tears with prayers for strength from God, we can make it through those times. While tears help to clear our hearts, our prayers help to clear our minds and remind us that we are not alone. No matter what we are going through in life, God is right beside us, and if we allow him to, he will hold us up and dry our tears with the hope that he has to offer.
I’ve cried a lot over the years, from Baylor delivery room many years ago to this week hurting for some who were struggling with life challenges. There will be many more tears as the days and weeks move swiftly through time. But I know that no matter how low I may get, no matter how many tears I cry, in whatever situation I find myself, I am not alone. Jesus promised his followers that he would send a comforter to be with them after he left. Although I cannot see him, I know he is there because of the promise of my savior.
So, go ahead and cry, it’s okay, it’s natural, it’s human. However, don’t forget that we often must cry today in order to see with our hearts what lies ahead tomorrow.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ