RITE OF PASSAGE: Real men don’t cry
I am not a crier, I am not a crier, I AM NOT A CRIER!
Well, you might say that I cry on occasion. To be honest, I find myself crying a lot more than I used to. I grew up in the era when the mantra for training young boys was, “Real men don’t cry.” This was usually followed by those three words of wise counsel, “Suck it up.” I don’t know how many times I heard my dad tell me, “Real men don’t cry.”
Looking back on my life, I understand what he was trying to teach me. You can’t cry over everything. He was right; some events don’t require a flood from the five frontal orifices of your head (as a child, I used to slobber and blow snot whenever I cried).
Recently, I find myself crying over things I never thought would move me. I’m watching an AT&T commercial where a dad leaves on a business trip. He gets into the taxicab and opens his briefcase to find one of his daughter’s stuffed animals.
I catch a deep breath and blink, but I stop as soon as I hear the voice inside my head. It whispers, “Real men don’t cry.” The commercial continues with the dad in London. He holds up the stuffed animal and takes its picture in front of Big Ben so he can send it to his little girl. She squeals with delight when she sees the image.
This time, I took two deep breaths, my heart pounds harder and I feel my nose begin to run. Next, the dad sends a picture from Paris with his daughter’s stuffed animal in front of the Eiffel Tower. My eyes must have sprung a leak, but I remain in control, repeating to myself, “Real men don’t cry; real men don’t cry.”
The commercial ends with the dad sending one more photo to his daughter. It shows the stuffed animal sitting in front of their house. All at once, the little girl realizes what this means. She runs to the door, swings it wide, and runs to hug her dad.
By now, I’m a basket case. I can’t hold it in any longer. I slobber and blow snot as I rejoice over the love of this family. Yes, I know it’s only a commercial, but something inside me desires that love for my own family and every other family, too. I also feel guilty because . . . I cried.
I wonder if Joseph ever told Jesus, “Real men don’t cry” or, “Suck it up.” I have always imagined Jesus as a man’s man. Since he worked as a carpenter most of his life, I imagine his body as well toned from chiseling and scraping all that wood. I imagine his hands as callused, the labor of life ingrained into the crevasses of his palms. And I imagine him as a physically strong man since he was able to survive without food for 40 days and nights.
But there are some things about Jesus I don’t have to imagine. I don’t have to imagine His sensitivity to the rejects of society, for I read about His encounter with a woman at the well. I don’t have to imagine his compassion for the disabled. He told the lame man to take up his pallet and walk, and the man was healed. I don’t have to imagine Jesus’ respect for women, because they loved Him so much that they came to the empty tomb first. I don’t have to imagine Jesus’ love for children, for He told each of us to approach him as . . . a little child. And I don’t have to imagine Jesus crying because I know He wept over the city of Jerusalem, the city of peace that rejected the King of Peace. He wept over his friend Lazarus’ death. And sometimes I think he weeps over . . . me.
As my years of being a Christ-follower continue, I find myself crying more and more. I cry over the lack of missionaries; the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are . . . few. I cry over dysfunctional families. I cry over a man who stands on the side of the road with a sign that says, “Will work for food.” And I have discovered that real men cry . . . after all.
Yes, Dad, real men cry. They cry over the things that break the heart of God. They can cry without feeling guilt. They don’t have to “Suck it up” if they are following our Savior’s example, because the Bible says that Jesus . . . wept (John 11:35).