Longing to go home
By Larry Yeagley
“I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: ‘Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone’ ” (Rev. 21:3, 4, Message).1
My longing for God to move into the neighborhood, making His home with men and women, grows more intense with every tear-moistened face I see. The snapshots I share are a mere fraction of the people who increase my longing.
Images of Tears
A starving child, hollow-eyed, languishes for lack of food. Her dehydrated body lies motionless. Mini-tears moisten her eyelids. Her mother’s tears flow copiously. Life is ebbing away. Hope fades.
A mother’s tears drop on the pink blanket wrapped around her lifeless baby. There seems no end to her weeping. Mysterious crib death has taken away her angel. As she searches for reasons, she speaks through her weeping. Her tears do not abate.
A father drapes himself across the steering wheel of his pickup as he utters deep sobs and moans. Minutes before a judge sentenced his only son to life without parole. He weeps for his son and broken dreams.
A husband of 60 years sits by the bed of his dying sweetheart. No audible sobbing, only salty tears streaming down his wrinkled cheeks. When she finally sighs her last breath, the loud cries erupt from the depths of his being.
A 7-year-old boy cries in the back seat of a social worker’s car. He was taken from his abusive home and now is going to a place unknown to him. Alone, forsaken, trembling, and afraid, he cannot hide his tears.
"I sat quietly in her living rom and gave her permission to cry 19 years' worth of tears."
Visible tears well up in the eyes of the clerk who checks out my groceries. She shares that her marriage is coming to an end. I do not ask why. I simply give permission to cry.
The hellholes of war replay in a veteran’s mind. He cannot share the horrors with family. Tears wet his pillow in the still of the night. Tears are locked inside during the day.
Years after a senseless murder family holidays are muted by longings for a complete family. Tears are still fresh.
A couple holds each other in their arms as they watch their home reduced to ashes. Mementos of their life together all gone. Through sobs they ask what they will do now.
A head-on collision snuffed out the life of her oldest son. Now, a year later, her youngest son ended his own life. At 86 she tells me she is trying to manage, but the huge tears in her old eyes tell me it is time for God to move into the neighborhood, making His home with men and women.
A mother in Mexico asked me to have a funeral for her stillborn son. The family and I gathered in her hospital room. As I shared words of comfort she looked up at the ceiling. Her eye wells filled with tears. I wanted to wipe her tears, but no tissues could be found in the room. I knew that shedding tears is a healthy release of overpowering heartache, but I also understood the therapeutic value of feeling another person wiping away tears. I knew that feeling personally when I was a hospital patient.
My fear level had skyrocketed as I worried about the outcome of the surgery in the morning. An elderly chaplain entered my room. He laughed and dismissed my fear. When he left, I asked the head nurse to send a nun to see me. She pulled a chair to the head of my bed, held my hand, and invited me to share my feelings. The tears that I had so neatly tucked away came rolling down my cheeks. That’s when that godly nun applied the tissues to this grown man’s face.
I realize that we humans cannot prevent tears. They are part of our broken world. There is, however, something we can do. Until God moves into the neighborhood, we can be tear wipers. Tear wipers for Jesus. What a mission!
The apostle Paul put it right on target: “Blessed be the God . . . of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4, NASB).2
Wiping tears and comforting the afflicted is not always a physical wiping. I discovered that once again when I visited Jennifer. For 19 years she nursed her son who required around-the-clock care. She battled the school system until her boy graduated from high school. Her husband left all the care to her. She was not allowed to express feelings in words or tears. Her son’s death brought tears she couldn’t share with the ones she loved.
For an hour I sat quietly in her living room and gave her permission to cry 19 years’ worth of tears. The next day she appeared at my door with a gift card for a local restaurant. Permission to shed tears opened the door of hope for her.
The Comforter often speaks for us. It happened when I entered the room of a dying grandfather. His son and granddaughter were weeping because the end was near. I sat with them for a few minutes. I went to the patient’s bedside, leaned close to his ear, and prayed. I left the room quietly. A week later the son stopped me in the corridor. “I just wanted to tell you how much we appreciated the comforting words you shared with us before Dad died,” he said. I was stunned to think that God was speaking for me when I visited the sobbing family.
So many tears! So many broken hearts! It is so encouraging knowing that we do not initiate the tear-drying process. We simply fall in step with what the Master Comforter has already been doing.
How will God ever wipe all the tears away? How will He ever mend all the broken hearts? How will He make it permanent? The Lord who “spoke, and it was done,” “commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:9), will move into the neighborhood and with a word banish tears forever.
Until that day, we are called to go on wiping tears for Jesus.
1 Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
2 Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Larry Yeagley has served as teacher, pastor, and chaplain, and currently enjoys an active retirement in Gentry, Arizona.