Scriptural Analysis- Exodus 2:5-6

5 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.

6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.

Moses’s mother had surrendered her child to God’s mercy, committing her son to the unknown. One might think that being found an Egyptian, let alone the daughter of the very man who ordered the death of the Hebrew males, would be the worst possible outcome for that child! As we see in verse 6, the woman absolutely knew where this child came from, and it is inconceivable that she had forgotten her father’s directive. I would assume that she was able to put two-and-two together, and understood exactly why this baby had been abandoned to the river.

But then this situation took a surprising turn. She found compassion for the little boy, and I find it very endearing that the biblical record tells us why: the babe wept. I can only imagine the extreme prejudice that had been fostered in the Egyptians towards the Israelite people, the immense disdain with which they must have viewed these people who had been placed at the absolute bottom of the social ladder. Yet it would seem that all of that bigotry melted away when the daughter of Pharaoh was actually faced with a pure and innocent newborn in need.

One of the purposes for our sorrowful emotions is how they draw the kindness and compassion out of those around us. We see a person in distress and cannot help feeling moved to help them. Baby Moses’ helplessness and weakness ended up being his saving grace.

You Should Have Cried: Part Two

In my last post I discussed the therapeutic process of revisiting childhood trauma and mourning the things that might have never been fully processed at the time. In many cases this means finally shedding the tears that had been bottled up for far, far too long.

But I’ve been in therapy groups, and I’ve certainly seen a resistance to this process, particularly among the men who feel like openly weeping is unmanly. Is there a validity to this sense of stoicism, or is it a misalignment in our society? Well, today we will address this question by looking at the example of the greatest man that ever lived: Jesus Christ.

Become as a Little Child)

The primary reason why many feel ashamed to show their unbridled emotion is that they want to be mature and composed. They don’t want to appear as a little child. But what was it that Jesus said to his disciples about little children?

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 18:2-4

Humble yourself as a little child. Give up your pride and your show of false strength. Stop trying to prove that you’ve got this all taken care of and let yourself admit that you were really hurt.

And in case you aren’t sure that Jesus’s declarations applied to matters of showing one’s weakness and hurt, let us consider another example that he gave in a moment of great distress. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when he was bowed under the pain of the atonement and the anxiety of the coming crucifixion, this was his response:

And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. - Mark 14:35-36

Jesus feels scared and hurt, and he falls on his face and calls to his “Abba.” Abba is a Hebrew word for “father,” and it denotes both intimacy and submission, something like “daddy” and “sir” all rolled into one. “Daddy/sir, you can do anything, will you take this hurt from me? But I’ll go through with it if you ask.”

Jesus has been many things to his followers. He has been called “master,” and “teacher,” and “prophet.” But to his God, Jesus is “as a little child.” Vulnerable, open about his pain, asking for help, and submissive.

Later still, when Jesus was upon the cross, he cried out in a moment of agony:

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? - Mark 15:34

Previously, when raised upon the cross, Jesus had been magnanimous to his killers: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34. He had been considerate to the well-being of his mother: “He saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” – John 19:26-27. But to his God, once again, Jesus was a little child, crying out and asking why he was alone.

To Every Thing There is a Season)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; - Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

The words and example of Jesus Christ perfectly line up with these words of wisdom in Ecclesiastes. Yes, there is a time for stoicism. There is a time for power. There is a time for projecting strength and not weakness. One has only to consider Jesus chasing out the vendors in the temple with a whip to see that there is even a time for anger!

But also, there is a time for weeping, mourning, and being broken. One of the great examples of Christ, which too often goes overlooked, was how he filled the full measure of human emotion. He showed all of his feelings, at the appropriate time. Reserved when he ought to be, confident when he ought to be, distraught when he ought to be, and pained when ought to be. He assured his disciples that there was nothing to fear (Mark 4:39-40), but he also wept at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35).

To claim that you ought not feel or show an entire sector of the emotional spectrum because you are a man, is to claim that that you are more of a man than Jesus. God did not give us our feelings with the intent that we would ignore half of them, all of them were given for our good. Yes, they need to be governed and managed at times, but that does not mean suppressed out of existence!

Previously, I presented the mourning of old trauma as a matter of emotional therapy, and it is, but it is also a matter of spiritual significance as well. We cannot be the full person that God intended for us to be until we truly embrace the full person, broken inner child included.

I know by experience that Christ calls each of us to step into the hurts of our past. Not only that, he asks us to step into those places with him. He goes with us into those defeated places, he asks us to open up the hurt and let the tears flow, and then he applies his healing balm and saves the lost soul within. Mourning our old wounds, with our Savior by our side, is arguably the most sacred act that we will ever do. May we all go through this beautiful process, so that every lost child can be healed and be saved.

You Should Have Cried: Part One

A Five-Minute Tragedy)

This morning I was sitting in my living room when I heard the sound of collisions in quick succession and the cries of my two-year-old daughter. She had fallen halfway down the staircase, and now she lay in a heap, physically tender and emotionally broken.

As you might expect, for the next several minutes she was inconsolable, wrapped in the arms of her mother, wailing as the tears streamed from her face. There was no real damage to her physically, but the terror of falling and the momentary pain had greatly unnerved her.

And then, all at once, she stopped crying, bounced out of her mother’s arms, and went about her day like nothing had happened!

This, of course, is common in the life of a young child. A moment of pain or of fright brings them crashing down, but after a good cry they’re perfectly fine and will soon forget that anything ever happened. One might be tempted to say that this whole thing is silly, likely they are getting all worked up about something that didn’t matter at all, but really this is a sign that their emotions are operating exactly how they should. Being able to stop and have a cry is the child’s way of quickly and effectively processing the trauma, and then they are able to leave it in the past where it belongs.

Unwept Tears)

Sometimes, however, children don’t cry when they ought to. The tears well up in their eyes, but they blink them back and power forward. The primary reason for not crying is that the child doesn’t feel that it is safe to cry, and this situation might occur more frequently than you’d expect.

Consider the example of a child lost at the supermarket. They may feel terribly scared and alone, but many of them won’t actually cry about it until they are back in the arms of a loved parent, which is the only place that they feel safe enough to let the tears come.

Another example would be when the child is surrounded by antagonists. A child that is being bullied at school will often feel that they have been humiliated enough without showing their aggressors the tears in their eyes as well.

There may also be social pressures not to cry. Young boys will feel like they must become stoic and reserved, like men. Though they may suffer a considerable ordeal, such as being in a dangerous car accident, if they don’t see their father shed any tears about it, they will feel that they shouldn’t either. Girls have their own form of this, too, feeling that they must stuff their feelings down in order to not make a scene. They will feel it is their responsibility to not add drama to an already tense situation, to hold the peace and not rock the boat.

There are many other examples that could be given of times and places that a child’s psyche knows that it ought to cry, but they don’t because it feels unsafe or wrong to them to do so. Thus, they are at odds with their own self, suppressing their nature under a show of control.

The Work of Therapy)

I once had a therapist who would quote that “the wound un-mourned is a wound unhealed.” Most of us don’t realize that when we suppressed our tears as children, we essentially covered up the wound without ever treating it. Just like physical wounds, emotional wounds can get infested. Infection will grow within them, and then that infection will come out in odd, seemingly unrelated placed. Many times, we believe that there isn’t a reason behind the bad things that we do as an adult, but after we revisit and mourn our childhood trauma, we suddenly find the motivation to do the wrong thing has evaporated away. Our emotions are like a prairie dog village, with many seemingly unrelated openings at the top, but a whole network of interconnected tunnels hiding down below.

One of the greatest works of therapy is identifying those unwept, unhealed moments of trauma from our past, going back to them, and crying for them like we should have at the time. With the help of a counselor, one has revealed to them the fact that the scared, hurt child is still very alive and well inside. They find that child, weep with it, and bring it to a place of safety.

Of course, I have seen many men in my recovery groups that feel extremely uncomfortable with getting emotional. We are grown men, and we’re convinced that crying is unbecoming of us. But what we must remember is that it isn’t necessarily us who needs to cry, it’s the young boy inside of us. All we’re doing is letting our body be a vessel for that child to get out what it has kept locked away for so long. In this sort of context and for this sort of purpose, tears could never be more dignified.

And, when we do let ourselves go through the full mourning process, just like my two-year-old daughter we’ll suddenly bounce back up and feel such a lightness and relief. We don’t realize just how much our old hurts were holding us down until we suddenly feel the weight of them sliding off our backs. And all things considered, it is a relatively easy thing to do. I never ceased to be amazed that a hurt, held onto for more than twenty years, can be released in only twenty seconds.

But what about the words of scripture? Do they support returning to the state of a little child? Do they approve of such vulnerable, open-hearted weeping? Come back tomorrow as we take a look at the words of Christ, himself, and the example that he set with his very own life.