He had tears in his eyes.
I thought about that for many of the eight hundred and fifty miles it took to make the journey from my childhood home to the place which has been home to me for all of the forty years since that day.
Exactly forty years ago today, I arrived in this little town. One of my old friends jogged my memory of what day it was as we reminisced together one recent evening.
The first day of winter in 1976 saw me packing every possession I owned in the little yellow Chevy and leaving my home in south Texas to make the one day journey north. To what, I had no idea.
He had tears in his eyes.
The man I can’t say I ever really knew as a child, even though I had spent nineteen years living in the same house with him. The man who had taught me so much about forgiveness and grace, but from whom I never heard the words, I’m sorry. The man who was unmoved by the maudlin; untouched by the mushy emotion of human drama, was crying as he said goodbye to me.
I don’t remember ever seeing tears in his eyes before. I’m sure now that he had cried in that time, but he was never one to show emotion to his children. He disciplined and rewarded us; he taught and rebuked us; he provided all the necessities and encouraged us to be self-sufficient. We saw the different facets of what a father did, but he did it without undue emotion and effusiveness.
Yet, he was crying as I pulled out of the driveway. To say it was a moving experience (with absolutely no pun intended) would be a drastic understatement.
I don’t recall what he said as we parted. I don’t remember if he gave me any money or last minute advice on life. But, whenever I think about leaving home, I remember the tears in the eyes of the man whom I had always counted on to be rock solid.
Big boys don’t cry.
I reminded myself as I pulled away from the house. It didn’t work.
They do—and I did.
It was the best going away present a man could give his son. In retrospect, I wish he had been able to do that earlier in my life, so I could have started learning the lesson I’m still absorbing.
There is no shame in showing your feelings. None.
God designed us to feel emotions.
A lot of pain could be averted if we would simply allow the people we love to know how deeply we feel for them. Words are good, but the emotions which spring from our hearts and move us to tears—or joy—or even fear, teach and reassure so much more than mere words.
I realized on that day, a significant date in my journey to manhood, that real men aren’t afraid to cry.
There have been a lot of other firsts in the forty years since that day for me. First marriage (okay—the only one). First child. First snowstorm. First time I was fired (I keep telling myself it wasn’t a real job anyway). First day in business. First car wreck (the other car was parked). First time a policeman drew his gun on me (last time too, I hope). The list could go on and on.
Some of the firsts have been monumental, some coincidental. Not many have been more eye-opening than on that day thirty-five years ago, when for the first time, I saw my Dad cry over me.
This week we celebrate the leaving home of another Son.
This was no heading out without purpose, no going where circumstances took him. This Son left His home to perform a specific task.
His Father knew, as the child left to go on His journey, that it would end badly (from a father’s perspective). He also knew the journey and its end would achieve an amazing victory, a history-changing paradigm shift. So He stood by and let His Son go.
Did He cry? I don’t know.
I like to think He did. Still, I don’t know.
I do know His heart was moved with Fatherly pride as the boy grew into a man (Matthew 3:17) and that in the pain of loss He couldn’t watch as the inevitable end came (what father could?), but turned away. (Mark 15:34)
I really don’t know if God cries the way we experience it.
I do know He cares about us more than any physical father ever has—that He wants us to be with Him in the worst way.
That’s what Christmas is about.
The manger, the shepherds, the wise men and the star? They’re just incidental.
The Baby came for one purpose. To die. For me and for you.
I’m thinking if God does cry, it might be because some of us choose to remain separated from Him. Grace is ours for the taking because of the Son who left His home that day so many years ago.
My journey from home, forty years ago, is of no consequence in the grand scheme of the universe—my father’s tears of little moment in history.
But, the reminder of both for me at this season, points dramatically to the real reason for our celebration.
I’ll draw my loved ones close. I’ll embrace some whom I don’t know, but who need to feel His love.
I even might, as I contemplate a Father’s love, shed a tear or two of my own.
I am, after all, a big boy.
And, big boys certainly do cry.
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
(Psalm 56:8 ~ NLT)
A little girl once asked, “Mommy does God cry?”
“Don’t be silly, God can’t cry, baby,” her mother replied.
“But what about when He looks down from Heaven above
And sees all the people who need His love?
And what about when He looks down and sees
The playground kids fall and scrape their knees?
Or how about Aunt Jane who can’t have baby girls or boys?
Or what about the poor kids who get no Christmas toys?
Maybe God would cry if He lived with my friend Tommy.
Whose daddy beats and bruises him and his mommy.
Or maybe if He looked down and saw people being killed,
I think He’d surely have eyes that are tear-filled.
But I think most of all, Mommy, what would have made God cry,
Is when He looked down at the cross and watched His baby die.”
The mother stood in silence as her eyes filled with tears,
For she knew her little girl was wise beyond her years.
Staring into deep blue eyes, the mother found courage to say,
“Yes baby girl, I think God looks down and cries every day.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.