“You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?”
— Psalm 56:8 NASB
“In my distress I called upon the Lord,
and cried unto my God:
he heard my voice out of his temple,
and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”
— Psalm 18:6 KJVA
I write this reflection sitting outside my in-law’s apartment. The hospice nurse is in there now and just landed the blow that we are looking at hours and not days to witness the passing of my father-in-law. He’s sleeping in the newly placed hospital bed surrounded by his kids, oblivious to the ticking of the clock. We, however, are not. We see his gasping for breath, his struggle to communicate, his quickened heartbeat, and feel him leaving us.
I want to cry … for the loss of a man who always called me his favorite daughter-in-law (I am actually the ONLY D-I-L), for the loss this family will feel when he is gone, for the conversations he left unsaid because they were too difficult for him to engage in, for the wounds that silence and time don’t necessarily heal. There’s much to weep for as we stand witness to the end of his life.
My own father died eating a sandwich in the middle of the night. Mom found him missing from the bed and then found his body in the hallway. It was quick and painless in the dying for him but shocking for the rest of us. But this witnessing of a slow leak of life feels very different to me. Tears flow often and my heart sits heavy in my chest.
As I ask the Father how He sees this painful situation, I hear His name, El Eloi, dance around my head. The God who sees … He sees me sitting out here trying to give space in a room filled with sadness. He sees my father-in-law, helpless and in pain. He sees my husband hurting and burdened by “being the man of the house” now. He sees my mother-in-law lose her best friend of 63 years. But He’s not just watching a movie of our family’s experience, He’s feeling it with us. Like Psalm 56 says, He’s catching our tears as we all wait for the day when there will be no more tears (Revelation 21:4).
I’ve seen pictures of actual tear-catchers, these tiny ancient flasks that mourning families would use to catch their tears on the way to the cemetery in order to prove how much they loved the deceased. But God takes this picture a step further and says that He will catch our tears … and for Him to catch them He has to be close to our eyes. He walks with us in our sorrow in order to engage with our pain. We’re not just releasing our tears into nothingness, we are giving them to the One who holds them and can transform them. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NIV).
And so, my tears flow into a gut-wrenching prayer: Oh God, please take them and transform them. Please by your grace draw this family and my own heart to You. In the name of the One who sees all things, Amen.
ACTION: What is causing your tears to flow these days? Personal loss, loneliness, fear of the unknown? In what ways do you sense the Father walking beside you – so close to catch those tears? How does His presence bring a sense of hope to you today?