I don’t remember crying much in my early years – apart from when my brother would tease me, as most older brothers do. There is a classic picture of me when I am small, sitting on the edge of a bench not wanting to be in a family picture – of course they are all smiling at the other end of the bench. I, on the other hand, was grizzling – a lovely English term describing someone who is mad, sad and wants everyone to know it – I was crying out of self-pity. Sadly, as we grow up, we can still fall into this trap of crying for our own loss and our own situations but not for that of others. The positive side of weeping is when we are rejoicing with or empathising with others.
John Ortberg shares in his book, “I’d like you more if you were more like me,” that Joseph is the biggest cry-baby in the bible. Genesis shares, “He turned away from (his brothers) and began to weep… Joseph made himself known to his brothers and wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him and Pharaoh’s household heard about it… He threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept and he kissed all his brothers and wept over them.” How ironic that, although in our day we often take tears as a sign of weakness, in the first book of the bible, tears characterise the man who has climbed to the highest position of leadership and influence.
It all began to change for me during the 90’s with the move of the Holy Spirit in Toronto. Somehow the Holy Spirit got a hold of my emotions in a new way and simply hearing a testimony of someone coming to the Lord would bring tears to my eyes. I began to realise that my emotions were coming alive and really responding to people and situations through my tears.
I have always admired people who can tell a story and cry at the same time. I find it incredibly moving. Unfortunately for me, I just choke up and the only thing that comes out of my mouth is a high-pitched squeak! A little bit of time allows me to continue in a broken voice. The embarrassment isn’t quite so bad these days, as it happens pretty regularly. Even when I affirm people it is often hard to keep back the tears – in those words that I share comes such a heart of meaning and it seems only natural that emotions would follow.
Weeping over good stuff happening is one thing, weeping with those that weep is another. This requires being connected in such a way with the person or community that you feel what others are going through and are able to show your empathy for them. Paul urges us to care for one another in such a way that we are able to share other’s suffering and enjoy other’s successes. The saying goes a sadness shared is a sadness halved and a joy shared is a joy doubled.
So, what do you do if you are not one that is in touch with your feelings, you don’t cry, you find it difficult to empathise with others and are basically more matter of fact about life. Isn’t it just the way we are made? Research has shown that people who rarely cry are actually less bonded to others, they have a tendency to withdraw and they describe their relationships as less connected. Now if that is true for you, then it’s time to ask the Holy Spirit to do a renewing work in your emotional life. Just as our mind can be renewed so can our wills and our emotions. We are all made in the image of God and have a mind, will and emotions. Some of us are more mind oriented and live our lives thinking things through, others more will oriented and are determined and decide our way through life, and others are more emotional oriented and feel our way through life. We are all different but we all need to have an appreciation for functioning with mind, will and emotions and not become off balanced.
John Ortberg shares that the word tears, appears in the bible more than 90 times and there are another 30 references to crying or weeping. So obviously it is important. The key issue for me though, is how can I become more connected to people, how can I be more intimate with my wife, my family and my friends? Oh, and by the way, if you are one that cries a lot, it doesn’t automatically say that you are more intimate with people. It really depends on what kind of tears you are crying. If your tears are empathy oriented, then the likelihood is that you will be able to connect with people more readily.
So, what does that mean for us as leaders? 1 Cor. 12:24–26 says this: ‘But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.’ Here is the same idea of weeping and rejoicing. How are we doing in our weeping and rejoicing with those in our sphere of influence? Do we feel people’s pain? Are we encouraged by their success? David’s experience in Psalm 23 is that, ‘Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.’ Jesus knows how to weep with us when we are struggling. He promises to be with us. The statue above is of the weeping Jesus. He shares his compassion for Jerusalem with tears.
If we are going to be intimate with those around us, then this golden rule of weeping with those that weep and rejoicing with those that rejoice, has to be a part of our lives. This is the practical outworking of the great commandment of ‘loving one another.’
The challenge for us as leaders is LOVE and TIME. If we really love then we will have time to listen, weep and rejoice? Rite and I have just been spending some time listening to someone’s story over a few days – they shared some very sad situations and cried much in the process. Is this a fun activity for me? Not really. I confess there were times I was thinking of the things I could be doing rather than listening. But at the end of the time, she went away with a new sense of connection, with a new sense of hope and a feeling that someone in the body cares.
So, if we are going to develop Intimacy with others, we will engage with them, listen to them, have meaningful interaction, pray together, encourage often, share our lives in an authentic way – weep with them and rejoice with them. There is no substitute. The life Jesus came to give that he calls ‘abundant life’ – is a life full of intimacy. He prays that we would enjoy the oneness that He and the Father and Spirit enjoy together. Let’s keep pursuing that kind of relationship and team life together.
until next month