“Please! Don’t hang up on me! I want you to come home!”
My cry echoed hollowly as the dial tone stung my ear. Dropping the receiver, the burning hit my eyes with a hellish fervor. They stung until the saltwater tears poured out to douse the fire behind my vision.
She wasn’t coming home. My beautiful, lovely, one and only teenage daughter. Lost to me, she refused to leave the sin and return. Repenting and begging for forgiveness wasn’t on her rebellious bucket list.
Was this the fifth time I wept today? The constant falling of life-water onto my face did nothing to assuage my heart. Like a bandage that would not stick, the tears failed me, but still, they would not cease.
Drained with grief, I stumbled back into the room where my husband lay sleeping, and crawled under the heavy quilt. Wrapping myself securely, I crouched near his warm body, trembling with the shivering sobs. Chill seeped in through the sheets. Would I ever be able to set a firm chin of resignation to this issue of my precious baby daughter?
Within seconds of forcing my eyelids to clamp a lid on the sorrowful leaking from behind my eyes, I found myself opening them once again inside a bright white room. Jars and bottles of all shapes and sizes stood shoulder to shoulder like ardent glass soldiers in strict formation. They occupied every inch of hundreds of rows of shelves affixed to the wall, and they held transparent, sparkling liquid up to their brims. The room was radiant, unseen lights reflecting off of the white walls and the crystal clear bottles.
I did not hear Him arrive, but there He stood beside me. He stretched out His hand to me, his robe as pristine as the room, the white soft on my swollen eyes.
“Where are we, Lord?” I worried. Had my heart finally cracked beyond repair and given up the fight? Was this Glory? Then why did I still feel so heavily unhappy? What was this absence of peace, even as I stood in Jesus’ presence?
“These are my treasures,” He said softly, His voice soothing my ears like feathers against the cheek. “Each of these hold the tears of my children.”
With a gasp, I surveyed the room again, staring at the precious life-water of my brothers and sisters. Some jars were larger than milk jugs, holding gallons of sorrow in their bellies. They could only represent numerous days and nights of ripped hearts and tortured souls.
Thinking of my own impossible battle with my daughter, of the messy breakup that had destroyed my college years, and of the miscarriage I once faced as a newlywed, I suspected my own bottle was fairly immense.
Turning doe eyes to my Lord, I enquired, “Where is mine?”
With a strong finger, He pointed to the corner shelf, second from the bottom.
There sat a miniature vase, its thin neck holding no more than a pint of the clear salty tears I had donated over the years. I stared in disbelief. “Are you sure you didn’t miss any, Lord?”
“I miss nothing.” There was a sweet smile on Jesus’ lips.
In an instant, I forgot about my own miniscule bottle, and straightened up, gazing about the room again in horror. Striding purposefully over to a vessel the size of a small aquarium, I tapped its face with my fingernail. “What happened to him?” I demanded, dread filling the gaps between my lungs and ribcage.
Jesus’ eyes melted with a wise sadness that was married to joy and hope, a look of which my own timid faith could not mimic if I tried. The corners of my eyes were far too wrinkled with doubt to attempt it. “His entire village was murdered at the hands of radical militants. They burned down his church, leaving him crippled. His whole family was killed, and his wife died in his arms.”
With a gasp of pain, my hand reached for the great big jug of tears, and brushed back and forth against the glass as if I could wipe them away forever. I felt useless and helpless and my own sorrows fled. “Why?” I whispered, eyes shut.
“He travels to all of the surrounding nations, giving his testimony and leading many to Me. He is writing a book that will bring thousands to Me. His entire church and family rest in my Father’s bosom in heaven awaiting his coming to join them for eternity.”
I stepped a few paces to the right and found another. Large, intimidating, and sloshing with fresh tears. “And her?”
“She was sexually abused by her father for ten years. It began at the age of four and didn’t end until she ran away with her mother as a teenager, living on the streets and eating out of trashcans.”
“And…?” I waited, my heart racing in agony.
Jesus took my hand. “And she has started a nationwide ministry that provides shelter and education for abused women and their children. Every day she frees hundreds of lives.”
Encouraged and emboldened, I found yet another giant bottle, the tears of which were almost overflowing.
“She has multiple sclerosis and hurts every single day. Her husband left her, her family has all abandoned her, and she is completely alone, trapped in her own failing body.”
I knew what to expect this time. Jesus would tell me why. There was a happy ending to this story too.
“She came to know Me. She loves Me better,” He said simply.
“No extravagant ministry or worldwide fame?” I asked, hesitating.
“No one knows her name,” Jesus replied. “But it is enough that it brings her soul daily into my arms.”
I pointed to my own tiny vase once more. “Why have I not suffered like these? Why have I been spared so much mourning? Why have you given me an easy life in comparison?”
“Because, My dear child, it would not have glorified Me or been for your best to give you more. What you have now is good for you. You bring honor to Me in your responses, and I see and hold your fewer tears just as close to my heart. They are precious jewels in my sight, and more valuable to me than gold. You have been a good and faithful servant with what I have allowed you.”
All of me resonated with His words, as they spun through my head and radiated out my fingertips and my toes. My body felt light, and the peace I longed for coated my limbs. All I could control in that moment was my knees, which dropped to a deep kneel at His feet.
He moved away from me, reaching for my own vase. In His other scarred palm, He held a new, slightly larger bottle. With deft hands, He poured my tears into this bigger vessel, discarding the old.
In an instant, the supernatural peace fled from my immature, unstable mind. His words disappeared, my flimsy brain forgetting them. All I could see was the greater bottle, glaring at me with its smooth surface. My tears only occupied two thirds of its inside, ominously prophesying of weeping that was to come.
“What are you doing?” I demanded, rising to my feet, my hands clenched. “Are you implying I will be crying so much more soon? I thought it wasn’t for my good! I thought I was good enough now!” My spirit cried out silently that my words were vain and foolish, and not fit to be spoken in front of my King, but I did not heed this warning. I was consumed with unreasonable fear.
His kind face remained unchanged. With the same look of compassion, He took my hands in His once more. “My daughter, there is no inherent goodness within yourself. And did you forget so quickly what I did in the lives of My other children? Do you still not trust Me?”
Biting my lip, I shushed my mouth and hung my head. “Help me!” I murmured. “Because it is so very hard. It should not be, but yet it is!”
The doorbell roused me from sleep and I was once again huddled against the strong back of my husband, our familiar bedroom walls alerting me that it had been a dream. The incessant chiming cried to be noticed. Who could it be so early? The sun had only just begun to apply blush to the cheeks of the sky. I pulled on the knob and swung open the heavy front door.
There she stood. My lovely, broken, weeping daughter. Her cheeks were pale, her makeup smudged. But her lowered, shamed eyes were clear. She lifted them to me and fell into my outstretched arms. “Mama, I’m home!”
Again, the saltwater cleansed my cheeks. These were the new tears of which He had hinted. Tears I had been afraid to meet. I knew they would flow for hours.
Tears of joy.