Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


He Collects Our Tears

Last week Husband and I had our “date night” at home. We made popcorn and watched “The Shack.” Because of the underlying story of child abduction, Samantha Runnion came to my mind.

In fact, I remember her every time I weep.

On July 15, 2002 as she played with her best friend outside her family’s Stanton, CA condo, 5-year-old “Mantha” was snatched-- kicking and screaming-- by a stranger who said he was looking for his lost puppy. Her brutalized body was found 24 hours later on a remote mountain trail.

It’s impossible to hear stories of senseless, heinous acts against innocent children without being affected. Two days a week I listen to courageous women seek spiritual healing by reliving the horror of things done to them-- most before they were old enough to run away, or even tell anyone what happened. Sometimes when they leave my office I sit alone and weep.

And I remember “Mantha.”

Samantha Runnion couldn’t save herself, but she did everything necessary to identify her abductor-- she wept. Her dried tears were found on the car’s childproof door lock. When the DNA was harvested, she had deposited her testimony there.   

In the agonies that cause us to mourn, we leave behind marks far more intimate than we realize. Our bodies biologically document a complex, yet humble message: I was here, and my pain was real.

Our ancient ancestors made tear-bottles, small urns of glass or pottery created to collect the tears of mourners at funerals for their loved ones. They were placed in the sepulchers at Rome and in Palestine where bodies were laid to rest. In some ancient tombs these bottles are found in great numbers. Each collected tears that were shed with unique anguish by those who mourned.

In times of big grief, the words of David, the psalmist comfort me: “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)

I need to remember that our pain is not haphazardly viewed by the One who created our tear ducts. God keeps count of our torment. Each tear is recorded and collected. None are ever wasted. He knows our laments more intimately than we realize.

But also more than a parent wiping our eyes and collecting our tears, God shed tears of His own when He personally took on the sins and sufferings of creation.  

In her book Creed or Chaos (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949), Dorothy Sayers writes:

“For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and courage to take His own medicine…

“He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.”

The effects of pain and evil are real. In the midst of life’s sorrows, we may demand explanations and justifications, and hear only the empty echo of our grief. But we are not alone. God sent a Savior as unique and personal as the very tears we shed. Each one is uniquely recorded by our Creator, every cry heard by the one who wept at the grave of Lazarus, every lament collected in a bottle until the day when humanity’s tears will be no more.