The Tears and the Garden

From The Jungle Book, after Mowgli fights off the deadly tiger Shere Kahn and the wolves who betrayed the pack:

"At last, only Akela, Bagheera, and about ten wolves who had been loyal to Mowgli remained. The boy's knees began to weaken, and a hurt began to grow inside of him, a hurt he had never known before. Sobs lefts his throat and tears ran down his cheeks. These strange happenings in his body frightened him, and he cried out to Bagheera, "What is this? Am I dying?"

"No, Little Brother," replied the panther, gently. "These are tears, which only [humans] use. Let them fall, Mowgli. Let them fall."

Mowgli sat and cried as if his heart were breaking. He had never cried before in his life. But then he had never been forced to leave the jungle before."

* * *

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

                                                                                                          Matthew 26:36-38 
*   *   *

They come as I am bent, hauling sleepers and socks from the dryer, gathering the whole lot into my arms in a wide, sweeping motion.  They come too in the kitchen when no one's looking and I want to slide to the ground and hide behind the counter and let the damn river flow. 

On Sundays, they rise in the in-between spaces, as I walk to the restroom or stand looking for a seat in a sea of familiar faces.  Snuggled on the couch with my son reading the stories of Ramona I feel their gathering tide and as I read this passage from The Jungle Book they crash into me like waves breaking against a sandy shore.

This winter has been a season of tears, a rising, salty sea as my family and I find ourselves between what was and what will be and I'm reminded again and again that growth itself often involves surrender; dying to what's familiar and opening our empty hands to embrace what's new.  The gift of new life is preceded by death, the birth foreshadowed by pain and the fact that Christ struggled so in the face of his own great transition brings me hope.        
The tears of Jesus in the garden, like the tears of Mowgli in the passage above and the tears I have felt this winter long, are tears of transition.  They are the heavy, disoriented cries of pain that come in the dark cloudy pass of life in-between. 
“What is this,” Mowgli says, “Am I dying?” 

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” says Jesus.
To be human is to feel pain and sorrow, to sit breaking and broken as the tears roll down.  We hold-on for as long as we can, clutching tight to the old, the known, and then finally, letting go at last, we feel the fear of falling as the thin skin of safety, the strong walls of that which holds us give way to something more. 
And all along the dark, dry and narrow passage that leads us continually from death to life, the gift of tears comes to water us, to nourish our thirsty souls and the seeds of life within. 
“Let them fall,” says the good, wise friend, Bagheera, "let them fall." 
*   *   *
Oh Christ, who surrendered through great heaving tears of sorrow and loss, guide us please, through this narrow passage-way, teach us to breathe through the pain as we wait for the gift of new life.  Grace us, please, with the tears of surrender, those salty, sacred streams that water our souls.


  1. wow. just yes.
    stilled and hushed and listening to the lessons my own tears teach as i let them fall.
    someone once said that Jesus' sorrow at death was only because he was the One who had known what it meant to be *fully* alive in the best possible way.
    i think that is very beautiful.

    1. What a lovely saying, Kelli. There's deep wisdom in the idea that the ability to feel sorrow and joy are deeply connected, when we lose our ability to grieve, we also lose our ability to laugh.
      Thanks for stopping over.

  2. Ah, this is gorgeous. Sorrowful and human and hopeful. I, too, have been in a season of tears and I resonate with your tears flowing in all the spaces here, friend. This is a beautiful meditation leading up to this weekend. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Amber. I've always loved psalm 86:4 "When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings." Peace to you!

  3. Oh, I hear you. . . . I hear you, my friend. . . may the cleansing that can come in tears come to you . . . may the peace after also come.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Andi. Looking forward to turning the corner, so MANY corners as spring and summer unfold.

  4. This, "To be human is to feel pain and sorrow, to sit breaking and broken as the tears roll down" is so true. And no-one was more fully human and fully alive than Christ. Thank you, Kelly, for this beautiful reflection. Blessings :)