So often when women visit my office and sit in the “chair of weeping,” they begin with apologies for their tears. I assure them: tears are an anointing.
In fact, many cultures treasure their tears. Catherine Doherty writes (in Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer) that “Russians believe that the greatest purity is achieved through tears” (page 96). And elsewhere she notes, “Clarity of soul is acquired by the gift of tears” (page 95).
When I was in the Holy Land, I learned that Jewish women would collect their tears in tiny vials—tears of joy, tears of sorrow, the tears that marked the most precious moments of their life. When they married, they offered this tiny vial to their husbands that he would receive and protect it and everything it represented. It was a way of marking their new union: everything that was most precious to her was now precious to him.
When the woman who was a sinner washes the Lord’s feet with her tears, some scholars believe that she was using this vial that she had collected over her lifetime. A vial that marked the most precious and important moments of her life. And she was giving it to, spending it on, entrusting it to Jesus.
And how He received her tears—received them, cherished them, and even protected them from those who would judge her.
This is the woman I long to be: the kind that would offer to Jesus the most precious parts of myself in response to His forgiveness, His provision, His affection, His protection, His remarkable delight at the very thought of my existence.
Jesus, some sister among us is afraid of her tears, or ashamed of them, or unwilling to shed them, or sees them as a weakness. Maybe they’ve been locked away, somewhere dark and deep, and they are long overdue. If it be Your perfect will, I pray, right now, let the tears flow, that my sister may offer them to You as a gift, an anointing, trusting that it is Your pleasure to receive all that is most precious to her.
This painting by Peter Paul Rubin is a compelling depiction of the Gospel.
Liz Kelly is a jazz singer who fell in love with Jesus. She writes, teaches, offers spiritual direction and retreats with a special interest in helping women to flourish in their faith. She’s written six books, including the award-winning Jesus Approaches and the Jesus Approaches Study Supplement. And she still sings jazz, but mainly in the tub and while washing dishes. Find out more about her here.