Shed Tears of True Joy

The summer I was 6, my family drove from Bristol, Conn. to York Beach, Maine. My younger brother Mark, 5, and sister Kathy, 2, and I rode in the back seat of our 1954 Ford. The windows were rolled down to cool off the ride on that warm summer day. Our annual vacation to York Beach had been a summer getaway for my grandparents going back to the Great Depression.

The idyllic seaside community had long ago welcomed my grandparents. Originally from Ellsworth, my grandfather was a highly sought-after tool and diemaker designer, but during summer shutdowns he built cottages in York Beach.

And for many years my grandmother operated a tearoom in a house, just steps from The Goldenrod Restaurant, which was famously known for its saltwater kisses and children watching through the windows at machines producing the candies.

The family stopped at a beautiful spot along a brook where Dad fired up a Coleman stove and warmed up lunch. Mom inquired of Kathy, “where is your doll?” That sent my sister into a wailing fit of grief. Along the way, Kathy had somehow dropped her doll out the car window.

While this was happening, my Dad asked Mark and me to rinse off the dishes in the stream. Mark would rinse one, let it go, and rinse another. The dishes were floating downstream. My Dad seeing this ran across the rocks to retrieve the dishes while my brother began to cry.

Dad put things away and tried to soothe his children’s feelings and loaded us back in the car with Mom. As he closed the door to my side, he simply asked me, “Are you going to cry too?”

I remember with laughter this story about the beginning of a vacation which only got better. We had a glorious week with my family along the Atlantic — just steps from the cottage. I ate my first lobster, from the traps set by my grandfather.

We live in a world of tumult, disease, cries of hunger, and war. Our American political system is straining at the seams. Our Protestant churches are closing ranks against one another.

I wonder if God is asking, “Are you going to cry too?”

There is always plenty to cry about. Our tears may reflect true sadness, but they can also reflect true joy.

After years of darkness and distress in captivity in another land, the people of Israel returned home. They hoped to find the people and things they had left behind or dropped along the way.

They rejoiced for a while as they remembered where they had been.

Scripture:

With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
In a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become Father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my first born. — Jeremiah 31:9

Prayer:

O God of hope and love,
Let us rejoice that through
Years of tears and years of joy
You have been with us.
Amen.