As a child, I sat across the table weekly from a father who’s eyes welled fresh tears every time he talked about the Man Christ Jesus. Something had happened to him in his twenties — he’d caught a vision, seen the beauty, and been undone by the heart of that God-Man — and Dad never recovered.
He still hasn’t. He still weeps every time. Whether it’s on a microphone while preaching, or over coffee with me, he can’t get past it. He begins to talk about Jesus’ sacrifice, His yieldedness to the Father, His love for the Church, and Dad chokes on his words.
And I wait, knowingly. Tears and Jesus always go together.
I came to know Jesus by those tears. Bible stories and theology and truth, always they had the backdrop of a man so choked up by love for a real Person, he couldn’t finish his paragraph.
We’d wait first, for the lump in his throat to give way to tears, until words would come again.
Many things Dad taught me. Many verses and truths and how we apply them and walk them out. He taught me how to dialogue with the Lord and how to fight against lies, one arrow at a time. He taught how to turn that red writing on the page right into conversation with a real Person. He taught me countless things with his words and actions, but this many years later, I don’t know if there was a louder statement than his tears.
They took me somewhere. They gave me a place to hang my knowledge of Jesus, of the scripture and all of life. Tears point beyond themselves. Like signposts, they’re proof and witness of something more. Dad’s tears, like signs pointing to the Someone behind them, promised me that if I sought Jesus with all my heart, I’d actually find Him. And in Him, I’d find what all the world cannot buy or produce — a satisfied heart, gripped by affection for Him.
I have four kids of my own now. And I sit across from them daily. If I give anything to them, I want it to be the tears that point to a beauty and a Person too grand to speak of without choking up. I want to give them truth carried by the warmth of passion, so alive. Bible stories that are not dead and dull but still have a heartbeat, because of the way I’ve brushed up near His heart through them.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that one of the first things that first won over Dad’s heart about Jesus was seeing Him as the one who wept in a garden alone, pouring out His heart to His Father. It was the Jesus of Gethsemane, broken with tears and sacrifice, that Dad never recovered from (Lk. 22:39-46). His own life became that same embodiment. We become what we behold and with this scene and holy Heart before his eyes, for fifty years or so, Dad has wept there beside his King, praying, daily, his own prayer of:
Not my will, but Yours. I am Yours. I trust You. I love you.
Yes, we become what we behold and that’s the key I find as I’ve watched my Dad — the key to my own desire to possess the same sort of unrelenting tenderness towards God, over decades (2 Cor. 3:18).
It’s about beholding His beauty. It’s about seeing Him and knowing Him. See Him, and there’s no such thing as sacrifice. Get a taste of Him, and you lose the taste for lesser loves. A life of extravagant, loving sacrifice unto Him is fruit of true encounter.
An open heart, not dull or disillusioned, free of jadedness and bitterness, is one that has seen, has tasted, has found Him to be good (Ps. 34:8). Beholding Him, each day, with eyes set upon the only One that is holy, matchless, and good, changes a soul from the inside out.
It’s the holy preoccupation with that beauty that preserves us from losing our way when the storms of life set in. It’s friendship with that One that keeps our hearts in a fellowship that holds us secure through the pain and troubles we face.
Today, my Dad turns 70. A man who has done what few do. He’s kept a tender heart in Jesus over all the years. Born in the fall, but born not to fall, he’s a man whose passion for God still burns bright. And he still has tears to point to the One where all the beauty is found.
And Dad, this post is for you. May you have the dream of your heart: to see Him more, to know Him more, to live your life to the full-measure, poured out utterly to Him. By the witness of your tears and of your life, may many eyes be lifted up, to find the Source of such wonder and passion, to turn their gaze and their lives, joining you in that holy preoccupation and givenness to God.
And may you know in part now, what I know you’ll know fully one day: that He calls you the friend that carries His heart and that weeps beside Him in the garden, until the Morning comes.
I love you Dad. Happy Birthday.