I have found myself crying lately on several occasions. I know… I’m soft. I cried during our first game this season. It was really cool, even though we lost handily, to see so many of the new guys on the team play. I feel a lot more camaraderie this season than I have in the past. It was emotional for me to see a lot of my friends and teammates perform. I know how hard we work. I know how much we practice. I know what kind of dreams guys are living out to play D1AA football. It was awesome. I won’t forget it. I love my teammates. Have you ever seen people you cared about finally reach a goal of theirs? It’s pretty awesome.
I cried because my little brother got shafted. My little brother (Gabe) is 12– he turns 13 in November. Gabe has decided to start playing golf, which he plays for his middle school. Gabe’s team only takes 6 kids to their tournaments. There are 13 kids on the team, so what they do is play each other every week. Then, the top 6 scorers get taken to the tournament. Well, Gabe all season has been on the cusp of making it, but he just hasn’t made the cut to get to the tournament. This all changed a couple weeks ago, though. Gabe, according to his friends, some of their parents, and almost all available evidence but the coach’s confirmation, had made the cut. He shot a great qualifying round. He had a better score than a lot of other kids. But when the news surfaced on who was going to the tournament, Gabe wasn’t picked to go. He had done everything he needed to do to make it. He still wasn’t picked. Have you ever had to watch your 12-year-old little brother hurt for someone else’s mistake? I have. I did. It was pretty awful. Still, almost daily, I pray for the ability to extend grace. I’m still not there yet. Luckily for me, Gabe is the most resilient little sucker ever. His older brother sure isn’t.
I cry easy. It’s really annoying for me. It keeps me from talking. I’m envious of the people who can push through their tears. I cannot. When I start to cry, it stops me dead in my tracks. I shuts me down. It keeps me from moving on. It also makes my eyes swell like crazy. If I even so much as yawn hard, my eyes look like I’ve just gotten through watching the end of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I really wish I could fix it. It happens to me at the worst times. I’ve cried a lot this semester over seemingly small things to some people. But they are big things to me. And they shut me down. But almost every time they shut me down, God hits me right in the stomach with one sentence.
It’s okay to cry.
We hear people say this. Jimmy V is famous for his speech at the Espy’s. We know this. People always try to make you feel okay about crying. But that’s the problem. People want to make you feel better, but they actually can’t. Unless you’ve ran, lifted, and sweat beside guys for 4 weeks, you can’t really imagine how it feels to see them fulfill a lifelong dream. If you haven’t ever given free points to the opposing team, you can’t really imagine how it feels to know you may have lost the game all by yourself. If you’ve never had to console your little brother because he was deemed “unworthy,” then you probably have never wanted to skip your whole day to go find him and save him from the disappointment like I did. But even still, all of that doesn’t matter. It’s not okay to cry because it just is arbitrarily. That’s weak. That’s fatalist. To cry “woe!” into the wind for the sake of catharsis is a joke. We should never settle for it. Despite this, it’s okay to cry. Why?
It’s okay to cry because it shows who God is.
I cried because I was happy for my teammates. Okay. Whatever. But why was I really happy for them? I could cite the fact that we had made to that day together. It was a team effort. But why does that matter? Maybe I was happy because I am really close to them like they are my best friends. But they’re not really. We’re not all close like that. Perhaps, I was excited for them because I knew their personal journey to get there. Really, though, I didn’t. And I still really don’t. I cried for my little brother. Why was I sad for Gabe when he got left behind? Was I sad because he didn’t make a golf tournament? I mean technically yes, but is that really a huge deal in the grand scheme of life? No, not really. Was I upset because I had practiced golf and worked hard and gotten to that point myself? No, Gabe did that. That was all him. Maybe I was upset because the coach had treated him unfairly. Really, though, that’s the nature of small town sports. I’ve seen it happen tons of times. It wasn’t that shocking.
So, why did I feel anything at all? Because Jesus Christ is in it all.
The more I grow in my faith, the more I start to see God in everything I do, say, touch, feel, etc. He is everywhere. When I watch my teammates take the field, I can find Christ. I can find joy in the Cross. Without the Cross, I wouldn’t even be on the team. It’s God’s will for me to be on this team. If I didn’t know Him, I wouldn’t know His will for my life. The only way to know Him is by way of submitting myself to the Cross. I wouldn’t be happy for my teammates if I didn’t know what real happiness was. Real happiness is found in everything but ourselves. I’m filled with joy for others. Not because of others. The experience of cheering for and encouraging others far outweighs the experience of going it alone. I cry tears of joy because Christ is my hope and joy. I can live life in light of eternity. I can find joy in the hope that life isn’t about wins and losses, but it is about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is about being Christ to my teammates. What better way is there to do that than to support them and encourage them? There is none.
When I watch my little brother hurt, I can find Christ. The Cross proves to me that the situation is His. In that moment when Gabe is battling the reality of sin, there’s nothing I can humanly do, really. I can tell Gabe it’s okay, or I can try to justify it somehow. I can try to fix it. I can try to move the past farther into the past. But they would all be futile tries. Truly, the only person capable of fixing Gabe’s brokenness is the One who took on brokenness completely only to come out perfect on the other side. I can find assurance in that. I can cry because I can admit that I really am helpless. There’s no way for me to come up with an earthly solution for Gabe’s problem. Only God can do that. Only God can prove to Gabe that, no matter what you shoot on the course, your sin total score is 0 when you’ve “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
I don’t really like to cry. I just do cry sometimes. There are tears of joy. There are tears of sadness. They come. They go.
But ultimately, I see Christ through it all.
That’s pretty cool.