When you sign up for the job of a pastor, no one tells you there will be tears. They mention you will be on call at times, that people will misunderstand you and sometimes confuse you, and that you might sometimes be emotionally tired.
But they forget to mention the tears. In seminary or otherwise. At least that is my experience.
You do not realize at first that sometimes you will be helping people who are so emotionally and spiritually and physically broken that all you want to do is lie down on the floor and cry with them. They didn't tell me that I would usually end up crying later, after they are gone, when I am alone with God and asking "Why?" When I am begging God to give me His vision of restoration for them. Asking that he would help me believe that all things are possible with him.
They did not tell me that those who are the most broken would bring the most joy to my heart, as I witness God's work in them. Sometimes these things go in fits and starts, two steps forward, three steps back, and over again, but nevertheless, there is an undeniable look in someone's eye when they believe God loves them and wants to make a way for them. Repentance before God is the gateway to new life, and it is so heart-achingly beautiful that I almost look away. It blows my mind that I get to see these transformations as they are happening, that I am a witness to the power of God's love in the heart of the broken.
You see, they did not tell me that next to my Bible, I would need a box of tissues in my office, stashed in my glove box, crammed into my purse. (Or that I would constantly be dispensing of a used-up tissue in my coat pocket.)
They did not share with me that occasionally I would cry because I had no words left to share with the hurting, with those who are not ready to see beyond themselves. That I would cry because they were not ready to receive all that God longs to offer them. That at times I would be a weeping prophet who didn't have clearance to speak all that my heart held.
No one happened to mention this. Though maybe they tried. Perhaps there are no words to express pastoral tears and so it is useless to try. Yet there they are, these tears, binding me to God's heart, spilling out like love all over those who need a touch from God, cleansing the pain, making way for the newness Jesus longs to bring to every aching heart.
And just beneath the tears? Deep, abundant joy.
It is the story retold, the story of deep pain on Good Friday and brilliant joy on Easter Sunday. It is the story of new life waiting to burst forth all around me, and for this reason, the tears are worth it. I wouldn't trade them for a minute.
What in your experience brings you to tears? Do the tears give way to joy—and if so, how?