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?”
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
* * *
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.
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
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.