Psalm 56:8 New Living Translation (NLT)
8 You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
The message is clear; touching. We have heard it repeated and expressed in many different ways. Through songs, blogs, stories and in inspirational articles. In sermons and poems. God has our tears. Every tear we’ve ever cried. Not a single one is lost. Not a single one went unnoticed. He collected them each one. He recorded them in His book. God is moved by our weeping.
But what about all the tears never cried?
All those tears I was never able to release. All the pain still held behind my eyes.
Most of my tears haven’t been cried. My eyes have stayed disturbingly and resolutely dry. The dam I built when but a child remains strong. No water is released, no matter how great the need for relief. No matter how much the pressure behind it.
It wasn’t safe to let them flow freely; not when I was a preschooler. Nor when I was in junior high. Not when married to the man who rejected me. Who didn’t love me. Never loved me. It wasn’t smart to release them to form rivers that would drip from my cheeks and drop off the tip of my nose. It wasn’t safe to feel. I held them in and kept them sealed tightly inside, carefully hidden in the darkest depths of my soul. Until I forgot how to open the floodgates.
There they remain. Tears never cried. Stagnant.
My heart has been in deep pain most of my life. My journey hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t had many ups. But the major blows have been plentiful. I’ve encountered too many difficult challenges that beat me to a pulp until I was too numb to respond. Until it was all I could do to get up off the floor. Take a step. Then another. I’ve had abundant reasons to cry and I’ve longed many times to weep uncontrollably. But showing vulnerability has never been safe. Feeling such raw emotions has proven to be foolish. Letting someone see my heart has always been idiotic. When I slipped and exposed my weakness, the repercussions were many and they were terrible. So I have swallowed the pain. And the tears.
They have remained dammed up behind a massive wall of numbness. Repressed for years and years. Every blow has caused the wall to be built higher. Wider. Stronger. The ocean of tears to grow deeper.
What about those tears? The ones I’ve never cried?
Are they of no significance? Hidden and unexpressed, have they lost their authenticity? Is unexpressed pain of no importance? Do only the tears actually released have meaning? Are they the only ones that count? The only ones God collects and treasures?
The tears we cry matter. He sees. Has compassion. Wipes them away. Holds each one. Knows the reason for them; for every single one. These are the precious tears that are kept in His bottle and recorded in His book.
Are they the only tears God cherishes?
I have a million uncried tears rotting in my soul and they will never have significance. They are worthless. The battle I fought to contain them is meaningless. The struggle I went through to carry them, to prevent them from inconveniently raining down on others, is inconsequential. I carried them when sharing them would have been easier…if riskier. I held them back and pasted a smile on my face to survive. And when surviving became all I knew how to do, the uncried tears multiplied until they were legion.
They are legion still.
But they are not in His bottle. They are bottled up in my heart, a painful reminder of all I have suffered alone. Of how my life has left me with nothing more than regrets and toxic memories.
“He knows your name
Every tear you cry
He knows the pain
How you feel alone”
(Moriah Peters, “No Shame”)
When I do not cry, is He unable to know my pain? Does He not discern how alone I feel? How the nights are empty and silent? And the days are wrapped in rabid isolation? Does He continue to absent Himself, uncaring of the hurt that rips me apart and stomps me helplessly into the earth where I am ground again to dust?
When I can’t cry, does He not care? Is He untouched by my tearless brokenness?
I wish I could cry freely and let God collect the tears in His bottle and record them in His book. I wish I could believe my pain moved Him, whether I managed to shed the tears or remained too afraid to let my guard down; to open my heart. To be that vulnerable. Revealing weaknesses through tears is risky. It can give those who are intent on hurting you a way in to your most tender places. Places where they can do the most significant amount of damage. But I cannot cry. I am imprisoned behind this wall. I have waited too long to seek release. The ocean of tears I have held in for a lifetime know the boundaries set for them so long ago and no longer cross the line.
They are contained in my bottle. A dead sea.
All the tears I have not cried. That I’ve held inside trying to survive. That I’ve choked down while they almost choked me. The only bottle my tears reside in…is the cavern of my heart. I am drowning in them. Their salt stings my eyes. I taste them in my mouth. But God doesn’t gather them. He does not hold them in His hand. There is no comfort to be had. Only this ocean of sorrow. Growing larger, deeper, wider with every passing moment. And I do not know how to swim in the foul waves any more than I know how to weep until this endless sea of tears is finally drained dry.