I remember not too long ago, that I went many years without shedding a tear. I was proud of that. I had decided that life was full of pain, and there was no sense crying like a child all the time. My mother and my father had both passed away by the cruel hand of cancer, and when they passed, my crying days were over. I had done what religious people call “hardening your heart”. That is a great description. My life had taken a turn where it was important to be tough; I was doing things that only “tough” people do. Life on the street is not a place for a baby or a coward. I was distant from all the people around me, including my wife and my kids. I had checked out emotionally. I did spend time with the children, but my mind was always somewhere else to be honest. I eventually ended up in jail with a bad attitude, and stayed for a while. Nothing could phase me, you couldn’t get me riled up, I didn’t acknowledge other inmates, I stayed alone with my tough heart. I prided myself in never whining and complaining about guards, conditions, lock-downs or anything else. Man, there are a lot of cry babies in jails. These guys are soft and pitiful really. Anyway, I got transferred to another jail and this jail was nasty. It made the first jail I was at look like the Hyatt Regency. I had violated a probation and had to try to flatten 12 months in this hell hole. It was dirty, stinky, loud and full with all types of crazies. I’m sure you know the drill. The worst part about it was that most of the time we were in lock-down 23 and 1. I never had my own cell, and the cell mate I got stuck with for over 2 months was a real #$%@. He was always talking and bragging about his business, and I being an older, bit wiser criminal wanted to tell him how stupid he really was. So here I was still tough, still hard, still staying out of trouble and doing my time.
My life changed one day when a guy came into the jail and said some things about God that caught me off guard. He said that God loves us in a way that is like a friend. The God I knew was tough, like me, and very above me and surely does not want anything to do with me. That religious stuff is for soft people that can’t handle life without a crutch. But the way he was saying these things, I could tell he really meant it. Most of the time, a preacher would come in and tell us that we are sinners (really, thanks for the heads up) and are going to hell. You first buddy. I had no tolerance for preachers, especially “hell, fire and brimstone” preachers. They were just selling fire insurance policies anyway. When you have closed your heart and don’t feel much, that type of talk just hardens your heart even more. After all this pain in my life and me just trying to get ahead just isn’t enough, so I get to go to hell too. Thanks. But the new guy was talking about God creating us for one reason: to be our friend. I won’t go in to details because you have probably or will probably read another of my letters. I get into more detail in those letters, but I don’t want to take up the time here. The point is that I decided to get to the bottom of this friendly God theory. I was going to prove to the new preacher guy that he was only presenting one side to the story. What happened was that I began to get curious and began to read the Bible (for research only at first) and study about God and His Son Jesus. Over time, my heart began to open up, but just a little bit.
I finally had a chance to lose the #$%@ of a cell mate, and move upstairs. The beauty of moving upstairs was that the guys staying a while were given a little more privacy: no cell mate. I remember when the doors shut after chow and I was alone. I had honestly forgotten what privacy was. I was staying a while, but at least I have my own place! The first night, I looked out of the small window and could see some of the city lights, a lone oak tree, and the hills behind it in the distance. I hadn’t seen outside for a long time. I thought about things that I normally hadn’t thought about: basically I began questioning who I really was. I compared myself to that lone oak tree. And then something strange happened. A small voice from deep inside of me said “I love you so much, just let Me love you”. I wasn’t prepared for that moment; I began to cry. I mean I cried like I had never cried before. My mind was racing between remembering how much I loved my kids and my wife and my freedom. Then feeling this warm love from inside, from God no less, and that just made me cry more. Between longing for my loved ones and feeling loved myself, I just lost it. I was sobbing so badly, I thought I should keep it down so the other inmates wouldn’t hear me. My heart had been hardened, but the problem with a hard heart is that when God touches it, it shatters. It doesn’t bend or mold or anything but just damn well break.
Trust me for a minute, if you will. Read a true story from the Bible about Lazarus: John 11:1-44. After reading the passage, did you notice the shortest verse in the Bible? “Jesus wept” vs. 35. Why did Jesus weep? The people around Him must have thought He was weeping over Lazarus’ death. But He wasn’t; He had already stated and knew He was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead. He couldn’t have been upset about anything really; He was about to do a glorious miracle! What’s sad about that? The fact of the matter, it says “He groaned in His spirit” and then wept. Jesus saw how death affects the ones that are left behind. He was moved by how much these people loved Lazarus, and how badly death moves us who don’t understand. The all powerful Son of God felt our pain. The implication is amazing: that God has lived on earth and has felt our pain in a very real way. This is no fairy tale my friend. I would not lie to you; I have nothing to gain from that. I’m telling you something that hit me square between the eyes: God has a soft heart! There are countless examples throughout the entire Bible, from cover to cover about God’s inescapable love for us. There is nothing we can do about it: we can’t get too far gone, we can’t get too bitter or hard-hearted, we can’t spit in His face and make Him not love us, we could nail Him to a cross and He still loves us. Oh, that’s right, He was nailed to a cross. Why did He have to die? Jesus Himself said, “there is no greater love than this: that a man lay His life down for his friends” and “I no longer consider you servants, but friends”. John 15:13-15. That to me is the ultimate guy to get to know. At first I didn’t believe that it could be true, but the more I tried to run away from the Truth, the more it would call out to me from deep within. I didn’t even realize I had a “deep within”. The more I knew, the more I couldn’t escape. Not too much later, I gave my life to Christ. I realized that Jesus was trying to tell us that we are so much more than just flesh and bone. More than just destined to live out our allotted years and then disappear. He taught about a relationship with God; a real relationship, not a sappy, religious boredom. I just couldn’t believe that after all I had done that He wanted me and desperately loved me. But after a while, I began to feel my heart again. I began to understand inwardly that we are all spiritual beings seeking our spiritual Creator. We had all lost our purest self: our spiritual self that is buried deep inside. I don’t have time in this letter to get into the spiritual life here, but you must realize that your spirit is eternal and cannot be destroyed. We have a choice to make in life: whether to do life on our own, or do life with God. Because of sin, God couldn’t be with us. But God Himself decided to pay the price for our sins, just so we could be together again! The Bible says “He loved us while were still sinners”. That means that no matter where you are or in what condition you are, you are still very much wanted and loved. Really?
When God touches your heart, you can’t deny it. There is something magical about the whole experience, and there is not a man alive that if he understands God’s love for him can hold back the tears of joy and release. Big boys don’t cry, eh? Well, how big a boy is the ultimate “bad-boy”? He conquered death, will conquer Satan, endured being beaten and crucified, rose from the grave, and now sits in heaven, waiting to return to claim His people and fight in the greatest war of all time. And He is so in love with us that He does all of this for you and me. I realized that the real reason I didn’t cry was that I was scared. I was weak and vulnerable, so I built a wall around my soft spot. I didn’t want people to see my pain, my ugliness, my insecurities, and my hurting heart. I sometimes look back on that time in my life when I thought I was tough. It is almost funny now. How could I have been so blind for so long? My mission is this: tell others who are walking on the same path as me that He is alive and wants to be your ultimate friend as your God. I just pray and hope that this letter at least gets you curious enough to explore the notion that Christ is in love with you. Sounds kind of mushy, doesn’t it? If you are blessed enough to wake up and feel His love, you won’t think it sounds mushy at all. First, he will break your heart, right in front of you; then He will make you full of joy and tears will cleanse your broken heart. Lastly He will bind and bandage that heart and seal it for eternity. Praise our King!
So take it from me, people who think they are big boys really aren’t. For the Truth to set you free, you had better get ready to wash yourself in tears:
Those who sow in tears,
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing the sheaves with him. Psalm 126: 5-6
Peace be with you,