Standing behind him at his feet and crying, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured the oil on them. — Luke 7:38
I’m writing this having just awakened. For some reason this was the question that was knocking at the door of my brain when my eyes opened.
Why do we cry? I consulted the Google oracle. No one knows why we have such a built-in mechanism; evolutionarily-speaking, crying didn’t help our cave ancestors deal with a charging wooly mammoth. But we do know how crying helps us in other ways. It puts you in a better emotional state by releasing pent-up feelings such as sadness, joy, fear, and frustration. It helps relieve stress. It shows we’re being honest as well as vulnerable. It invites an honest and vulnerable response as well from the person seeing you cry.
The most famous example of crying in the New Testament is the story found in Luke’s Gospel, where the “sinner” woman breaks down in a flood of tears when she approaches Jesus. A Pharisee who saw her was unmoved by her tears; he saw only a prostitute deserving punishment. But Jesus, unsurprisingly, was deeply moved and addressed her pain: “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” I bet he said these things after wiping the tears from his own face.
Maybe we cry because that’s the most authentic way we can connect to him. After all, tears are a sacrament we share: “Jesus began to cry.” (John 11:35)