I cry easily. Just ask my family.
I cried in the delivery room when my daughters were born. The first time, in fact, I had so many tears and was so overcome that I unfortunately forgot to use the camera strapped around my neck. I distinctly remember the other people in the delivery room saying, “Oh, he must be a first-time father,” as though the wonder of childbirth wears off quickly. By the third or fourth child, it’s all business.
Not for me.
I clearly remember crying in 1998 when Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record, though I now regret having done so, given McGwire’s probable steroid use. Still, it was quite a moving event, and sporting achievements are as likely to move me to tears as anything else.
If Michigan beats Alabama in their season opener in a couple of weeks, I know the tears will flow. (Don’t call me during the game.)
I also cried at the sun setting over Lake Michigan last weekend, another moving event for me.
Some people cry at hurt, pain, or sadness. I tend to cry at joy or beauty. I think Lake Michigan sunsets are the best glimpses of God’s glory we’re going to get until God calls us home.
I remember team teaching a class at my last church about Marilyn Robinson’s Gilead, one of the most beautiful novels I’ve read in the last 10 years. My co-teacher was an English professor at a nearby state university and, as it turned out, an astonishingly gifted teacher. He began by reading a few paragraphs for us and then weeping over the beauty of Robinson’s prose.
And naturally I wept too. Eventually everyone in the class was crying, and I remember sitting down and allowing this gifted teacher to explain to us why the words were so beautiful. After the first class I dropped the pretense of being a team teacher. I sat in the front row and cried whenever I felt like it.
Tears have been on my mind lately because my younger daughter was married over the weekend. Nearly every person who found out that there was going to be a wedding in my family asked me if I was going to officiate. I told each person (truthfully) that I really only wanted to be the father of the bride.
Another reason – maybe a more important reason – for not acting in the pastor role is this thing with crying. I am pretty sure I would not have been able to get through the wedding without blubbering.
When I walked my older daughter down the aisle a few summers ago, she and I couldn’t look at each other without making each other cry. Pictures taken at the back of the church confirm that we were both red-eyed and biting our lower lips.
So, if walking the bride down the aisle is difficult for me to do, imagine what handling the rest of the ceremony might involve. No one wanted that.
I did agree, however, to give the toast at the reception, and – you guessed it – I cried. And like yawning, crying often has the effect of causing other people to do the same thing.
When I told everyone how much life and joy and delight my daughter had brought into my life, I found that I couldn’t go on, and I found that many other people there that night – those I could see through my tears – were also crying.
The thing is, I wasn’t sad. I was happy. As happy as I’ve ever been.
And as I type this, and as I remember the wedding and everything that happened that day, I can feel a few more tears coming on. I just may have to stop typing and find a tissue.