BY CHAD BIRD
One of my jobs in high school was helping local ranchers work cattle. We’d vaccinate, cut off horns, castrate, mark their ears, and brand them. It’s hard, dirty work. By the end of the day, my hat had been sprayed with blood, my shirt smeared with snot, my boots soiled with manure and urine.
Oh, my poor mother on laundry day.
On the inside I was human, but on the outside, I had enough bodily fluids on me to half-qualify as an animal.
Perhaps this image disgusts you? That’s quite natural. The stuff that comes out of bodies is indeed disgusting. And we share this “stuff” with the animals. It’s acceptable when it’s inside—we never look a man on the street, or a bull in the field, and remark, “Gross, just look at them! They’ve got blood, urine, feces, semen, snot, all inside that body.”
No, as long as it’s interior, it’s okay. No big deal. But let it any of these animal or human fluids come out, and we turn away. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cow, dog, cat, or human, we deem bodily fluids unclean.
But there is one remarkable exception. And it’s an exception we don’t share with the animals. The only human bodily fluid that doesn’t disgust us when it appears outside the body is this: our tears.
No one thinks tears are gross. When loved ones cry on our shoulder, we don’t immediately launder our shirt. When we wipe away tears, we don’t rush to the restroom to wash our hands. We accept this bodily fluid, even welcome it.
Few things are more un-animal-like, quintessentially human, than tears.
Bottles of Tears
Our tears are also special treasures to the God who makes our bodies. “Put my tears in Your bottle,” the Psalmist prays (56:8). When we weep at the graveside, there is our Father, catching each tear as it falls from our eyes. When we cry alone in our bedrooms over lost loves, lost chances, lost innocence, there is the Lord, counting and collecting each of our tears.
Far from finding our tears disgusting or shameful or trivial, our Father reckons each one as a precious liquid diamond that he will keep in his bottle of remembrance.
If tears are quintessentially human, then the collection of them is quintessentially divine.
Tears on Graveyard Soil
But God does more. He’s not merely a collector of tears; he’s shed his own.
On the day Martha was worried about how disgusting the body of her brother would be, how the fluids from Lazarus’s rotting corpse would make it stink, Jesus did something quintessentially human: he wept.
This man who is God, this God who is man, let fall upon graveyard dirt the tears that flowed from Life itself.
If the ground that drank in Abel’s blood cried out against the death that had polluted it, how the ground must have cried out in amazement when it drank in the tears of the Creator of life itself.
And his Father counted those tears as well. He put them in the bottle with Jesus’s name on the outside. The tears of sorrow over a world choked by death. The tears over the demise of a dear friend. The tears of a God who knows how wrong sin and death are in the world he once pronounced Very Good.
Everything Jesus did was for us. Including those tears. He wept so that one day he would wipe every tear from our eyes in the resurrection. He grieved so that he might comfort us with the hope of everlasting joy. He filled a bottle with tears so that one day bottles of wine would overflow in the feast of life atop the mountain of God.
Christ Weeps Within Me
As we wander around in this brief life of ours, sometimes rejoicing, sometimes crying, always with us is the God who is not disgusted by our emotions. He counts our laughs, he collects our tears, he records our sighs. All are precious to him because all of who we are is precious to him.
Put my tears in Your bottle, O God. Better yet, mix my tears with those of Jesus, for he is in me, and I am in him. All that is mine is his, and all that is his is mine. It is no longer I who weep, but it is Christ who weeps within me.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.