I never fully expect it. It happens a lot when I'm watching something - a TV show, a movie - and usually that means I'm by myself or with my wife, and it isn't that big a deal.
But this morning it really came without warning, and there I was, a blubbering mess, right in front of Gemma and Pippa, 5 and 3 years old respectively. It happened while watching this video on my phone, in bed, while I was waking up (and the kids were playing with their My Little Pony's somewhere in the vicinity of my head):
That video is from Samaritan's Purse, and it tells the story of Syrian refugees arriving on the Greek coast packed like sardines into flimsy outboard rafts. It's unbelievably moving. It's painful to watch. It's a powerful expression of the gospel.
And it turned into a powerful time of conversation with my girls, as they both moved closer to see the video and began asking me about it. Their questions turned my tears into sobs - it was the combination of being there with my utterly beloved girls, both safe and secure, while watching the utterly beloved children in the video overwhelmed by such fear, such danger, such loss. Normally, I might shield my kids from these harsh realities, but for some reason I didn't this time. The three of us watched it all. I cried still more.
My wife Kalen watched too, and then we all agreed to start plotting ways to help even on our shoestring family budget. There are things we can do. There are things we can all do.
With that unexpected ugly cry (and beautiful inspiration) out of the way, I thought I was free and clear. Until Kalen and I decided to watch St. Vincent tonight. Here's a brilliant clip from the end credits where Bill Murray's character sings along with Dylan, but you can rent/stream the movie anywhere: Towards the end of the film, Murray's Vincent is shown a kind of grace by his 12 year old neighbor that is so palpably similar to how I understand and experience the grace of God that all I could do was cry, hard, yet again. Thankfully, this wasn't a kids movie so it was just me and Kalen. But man, twice in one day!
Crying is usually a signal for me that God is up to something. When a message gets to me a that deep place, it is a message from the Spirit. I need to listen. I need to receive it. I need to act on it.
There is compassion, and there is grace. There is belovedness amidst the brokenness. Gemma and I talked this morning about the "bad people" like ISIS who are doing so much perverted harm, destroying what God has called most good, like those precious little children in the video. But that can't ever be where it stops, you know? Otherwise, we are just hunting down bad people. No, we've got to drench the bad in belovedness. We've got to overcome it with the gritty grace of God, which turns no blind eyes, but sees the good and the beauty nonetheless. Only then will the bad be defeated, and perhaps even redeemed.