I had a couple of intimate (born again) Christian friends who were military cadets at the Nigerian Defense academy during my undergraduate days. I was uncannily drawn to them as I had grown to idolize soldiers having heard stories of the gallant Biafran soldiers who fought during the Nigerian civil war. There was an obvious difference between them and we-the bloody civilians-who sometimes appeared to go about life with no sense of urgency or seriousness. The nerve wracking drills and harsh treatment they receive from their trainers and tutors are meant to ‘drain away their civilian blood’ and transform them into a new species of humans called ‘soldiers’.
No sooner, an obviously gentle and lily-livered young lad grows into a tough and steel-hearted cadet. From a timid boy, he grows overnight into a fearless, confident and obstinate cadet. He is deliberately forced to live under dire circumstances: sleepless nights, dipping in cold water tanks under freezing temperatures, and other physically strenuous conditions. Unlike fellow citizens who walk about freely, his personal freedom and rights are exchanged on the altar of allegiance to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria. The seemingly weak and naïve boy at the end of his training, becomes a disciplined, fearless, tough-hearted and ‘unemotional’ military officer!
The trained soldier paints the picture of a true man; strong and valiant and able to defend his nation!
Society expects men to be tough. Boys are not supposed to cry we were told as kids, save the whimpering girls who are by default expected to cry.
Cry. Weep. Wail. Tears…!
Real men are not expected to cry, or show emotions even when they are hurting or have lost a loved one. Hence at interment ceremonies, it’s usually the wailing voice of women that tear the air and set sail, the clouds of sorrow and lament. A man who cries would have inadvertently betrayed his fellow men folk and would have let us down before women…the custodian of tear drops. Tears escape so easily from their eyes, and have traced countless strokes and curves on their faces over the centuries.
The first man, Adam must have wept the day he was driven out of the Garden of Eden with Eve, whose tears may have drowned Adam’s. But I would doubt if Adam didn’t ever weep for what he had lost in the Garden: abundance of all things, peaceful environment, delightful sleep and more importantly, God’s presence. At some point in the history of Adam’s lineage, ‘‘men began to call upon the name of the lord” and I have always wondered why this happened. Could it be that Adam, their forebear had lived in lament over the loss of God’s presence that they began to cry out to God who to them was unreachable having sent Adam out of his presence!
So men can also cry? So men can get to a point of despondency that they can actually lay aside their dour and stoic mien, and break down to ‘weep and wail like women’? Men can actually weep and the Bible is replete with several of such accounts. Joseph wept when he recognized his brothers, and may have recalled the pain of their betrayal prior to his sojourn to Egypt. Jephthah was a strong soldier who tore his clothes in lament when he had to give his daughter to God in fulfillment of a vow.
The greatest of soldiers and Israel’s strongest and fearless king, David, was a man of tears. He wailed like a woman when he lost his soul-mate and ‘adopted brother’ Jonathan. He would weep till he lost all his strength when enemy troops ravaged his camp and took away all his possessions and wives and those of his comrades. So in all his strength, he was able to display seemingly ‘feminine emotions’. He knew how to cry…!
But there was another kind of tears that he shed that most people hardly reckon with. In those tears, he dug deep into the deeper recesses of his heart to bring up those tears. They were tears and emotions he expressed in his quest for God’s presence. Each time I read those Psalms that contain his tears, my heart melts. How do you explain words like these from the mouth of a tough and fearless lad who killed Goliath the giant?
-Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy upon me, and answer me. When you said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Do not hide Your face from me; Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” (Psalm 27:7-10)
-“To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock: Do not be silent to me, lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You. When I lift up my hands towards Your holy sanctuary.” ( Psalm 28:1-2)
- “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, “Where is your God?” When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me…” (Psalm 42:1-4)
-“ Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.” (Psalm 61;1-4)
-“O God, You are my God; early will I seek You. My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and glory…. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:1-8)
As I read these devotional poems of David, my eyes glistened with tears. I tried to enter into the soul of David to feel the throbbing tension of seethed emotion and passion he had towards God. How could a gallant and tough guy who killed the bear and tore a lion weep? Upon reading his poems, one might feel embarrassed for David’s sake and men in general. How could he cry and weep with all the dignity and respect that befitted a king?
Little wonder he is the only man that was conferred with one of the highest of honors despite his obvious failings that we are yet to forgive him truly as a mentor. He still deserves this lofty title: “A Man after God’s heart’’ and no other person in the Bible or post-biblical history had been so honored. If a man like David can be so passionate in seeking God’s presence with tears, I wonder why people look down on those who melt down in tears while worshipping God. I wonder why women alone are seen as those who are ‘spiritually-sensitive’, and are made to carry the burden of praying and interceding for their husbands, children and society? It is the duty of men to weep before God for their families and carry the burden of their generation and society before God as priests and prophets!
If the first man Adam was too dignified to let his be seen by the on looking angels tears that he hushed them after he was banished from God’s presence, the second Adam, Jesus Christ cared less about shedding tears. Like David when he lost his best friend Jonathan, tears were not lacking from the heart and eyes of Jesus when his beloved friend, Lazarus died!
In dignity, he rode triumphantly towards Jerusalem amidst cheers and shouts of his countless admirers and followers. But as he approached Jerusalem, he became overwhelmed by emotions that he wept over the city…for the coming doom and destruction that will befall the city for spurning and rejecting God’s salvation!
If you think this Jesus Christ who was reputed as the consummate man was done with weeping over Jerusalem, wait until you followed him to the Garden of Gethsemane where he knelt down and cried, ‘’Father if it is Your will, take this cup away from me; nevertheless not my will but Yours be done.” He prayed in so much agony of the soul that his blood from sipped from his burst capillaries and mixed with his sweat, that angels were hurriedly dispatched from heaven to offer him some succor. The tears didn’t reduce the integrity of his manliness!
Hours later, his fears were confirmed when he was cut off from the light of the heaven, and from beholding his father’s face. For someone who had so much enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God, and was given the title of ‘’The Son in whom I am well pleased”, to be cut off from God’s presence was the most devastating of experience his soul could endure. When he couldn’t bear this transient banishment from God’s Presence, his entire body wriggled and his spirit cried out with a loud: “Eli, Eli lama sabachthani?” –“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” It was one of the most despondent cries anyone has ever uttered in human history!
As men, I believe we have a lot to learn from the life of David and Jesus Christ respectively. Both are truly great men and history corroborates this fact, and their renown will remain as long the earth exists. If these two men who revolutionized the world and gave hope to generations after them were this passionate about the pursuit of God’s presence, I wonder why men everywhere (me inclusive) have grown so indifferent that we hardly pursue God passionately. We crave for change, prominence and significance, yet we seem to loathe the pursuit of God’s presence.
God is looking once again for men like David who was after God’s heart. Men like Jesus who worshipped God in spirit and truth. Men, who would pray, intercede and stand in the gap for others. Men whose tears and prayers will rise like a memorial towards heaven, only to return back to earth as refreshing rain that will fill the hearts of those who are in need of a touch from God!
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence…
I desire therefore that the MEN PRAY everywhere, lifting holy hands, without wrath and doubting: in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation… ” (1 Timothy 2:1, 8)
The author is a poet and the moderator of Cry of Adam Network- a ministry dedicated to spiritual and emotional wholeness of men and women. He can be reached via email: email@example.com and www.nuggetz4life.blogspot.com
Read more articles by Felix Obi or search for articles on the same topic or others.