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God's Sweet Tears
A roll of salt water rolled off of Brenden’s neck. It made a small spot of slightly darker brown on the dirt. He tramped on. Creeping on, every second he made it closer to his destination. How long had it been since he had set out on his journey?
“Must’ve been about 3 years now,” he mumbled to himself. He let his mind wander down the mountain, through the dark pines, and to the clear pool of water where he had learned to swim with his father.
“Dad! Dad! Watch me!” cried the scrawny boy.
“Okay, okay. Calm down Bren,” laughed Dad.
Brenden took a running leap and dove into the liquid crystal water. Slurping in air as he surfaced, his face was stung with tiny droplets.
“Hey! No fair,” he squealed.
Dad caught Brenden up in his arms and threw him into the clear blue sky, then got a head start to the bank. Brenden was close behind, sprawling all four limbs in random sequences to push himself forward. They lay on the bank panting as the sun baked the water away from their skin. Then, putting shirts back on, they began up the long path that led to the cottage.
“Whaddya think water is made of?”
Dad guffawed a great big guffaw.
“Water is God’s tears, son.”
“Why does God cry?”
“Because He’s sad.”
“But why’s He sad, Dad?”
“Well, I suppose it’s because He can see the whole world from up there, and there are a-plenty bad things going on some places.”
They walked on in silence for a moment. Brenden had his nose all scrunched up, thinking in his nine year old way.
“Why are God’s tears not salty? Mine are salty,” Brenden wanted to know.
“Confound it! I don’t know. Go up to the top of the mountain and ask Him.” That was the end of that.
A week later, Brenden was tripping along the path to meet Dad at the pond. It was overcast and smelled like the sky was sweating and panting. The air was heavy and sticky. It was very quiet, but Brenden didn’t notice it because he made enough racket to wake up a hibernating bear. Aww, don’t rain. Me and Dad have to go swimming again. In the distance, he saw a bump on the road. Why’d they put a bump there?
The bump was a body. A body. A body . . .
Brenden woke up with a start. He had goosebumps, little prickles all down his spine. “What happened? Ooh, my head. I gotta find water,” he grunted. I must be going crazy, talking to myself all the time. I am crazy. Everyone must think I am, to spend 3 years of my life finding and climbing a mountain to see if I can ask God why His tears aren’t salty. Except, now I have more questions. Like why we need God’s tears to survive, he thought as he rummaged through the underbrush to find a spring. Or why it’s so important for me to know…
Heaving the sack over his shoulder, Brenden gazed at the path that led to the pool. Then he turned and stared at the cottage. It was tattered and patched now, after 5 years, and his mother was the same. Ever since that day he had come running down the path with his salty tears stinging the cut in his lip and the rain cleaning off the blood, she had changed. Every day, a small part of her closed, just like the shutters on the cottage. Brenden tried to help her, tried to console her, tried to take care of her, but it was to no avail.
“Thank you Brenden,” she had said one night. “But there isn’t anything that you can do for me now. I’m just one big knot of bitter tears. You can’t tell me that God would take him away. You can’t tell me that God cries for us.”
Brenden couldn’t tell her. He couldn’t even tell her why God’s tears weren’t salty – how could he tell her all of this? After that night, his mother closed even to him and he decided that he had to find out. If he could tell her why God had cried sweet tears that day, maybe she would come back to him.
The top of the mountain gleamed in the golden band of sunlight. It was eight years since the day that he found the body in the road. Each step had a solid ring as he approached the peak. His feet felt the ground beneath them with the assurance of a mountain goat and he strode on to meet God.
“I don’t know. Go up the mountain and ask him”
Brenden reached the mountaintop and looked around. From here he saw a checkerboard valley covered in patchy blankets of gossamer cloud. Looking up, there was only an abyss of azure sky. Brenden slumped to the ground and waited for God to show up… and waited… and waited. He began to feel a clump rising in his throat. It hadn’t occurred to him that God wouldn’t come.
Why aren’t you here? Don’t you know I have something to ask you? Why did you do that to me? And my mother? Don’t you see the suffering you caused? Don’t you care? He tasted a salty sensation and realized that he was crying. Why aren’t Your tears salty?
“Are you okay, son?”
Brenden jumped up and hastily brushed his forearm across his eyes. It was a little man. He only came up to Brenden’s shoulder, with a robe that appeared to be made of a feed sack. A silver band of hair, like a fence, encircled his head. His eyes must have been a deep brown at one point, but now they resembled a cup of dirty skim milk.
“Son? You’re going to have to speak up. I can’t see you.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Brother Andrew,” said the monk. “Why have you come to the mountain?”
I might as well tell him.
“I want to know why God’s tears aren’t salty,” Brenden sighed.
Brother Andrew’s eyebrows curved up sharply. Then he chuckled.
“I’ve never heard anyone ask it like that before.”
“It’s been asked before?” said Brenden incredulously.
“Yes. People come to the mountain asking all kinds of questions, and that one seems common, although usually they say ‘If God’s so sad, why did He have such-and-such die’ or ‘Why doesn’t He stop the war’ or what have you. You are simply asking why God’s tears aren’t bitter like yours are, right son?”
“I guess so…” Everything was beginning to piece together in his mind.
“People are wicked things, son. We’re selfish, bitter, angry – no wonder our tears are. But God’s tears have hope in them and compassion in it’s purest form. He sent Jesus – The Living Water – to give hope. That’s why God’s tears are sweet. He’s giving us hope.”
With that and a firm nod of his head, the monk shuffled around and hobbled back to a modest cave in between two rocks. Brenden stood like a dead tree, staring down the path he had spent so long trying to find. That’s why God’s tears are sweet. He’s giving us hope. Brenden began to walk down the mountain.
A young man stared at the pond. He turned slowly and walked up the road until he reached a ragged cross with a name faintly etched in the wood with a child’s pocketknife. Rain began to fall, drenching the man who stood without flinching. Without warning he dropped to his knees, threw back his head, and drank sweet tears.