Before the next graduate entered my office, I could hear her crying, administrators buoying her with affirmations. After some Lamaze breathing, she seemed composed again, ready to be delivered her diploma. Our Vice President for Academic Affairs led her to the entryway and, having pronounced his avowals, invited her to walk toward me for the moment of conferral. As soon as she rounded the corner my features mimicked hers—face swelling, eyes welling.
For all the value put on rationality, God has put inordinately more on empathy. Reason attires control. But, to pilfer Anthony Burgess’ parlance, clockwork an orange does not make. Empathy’s emotion—exposing vulnerability—makes us complete. Even “the founder of their salvation” was made “perfect through suffering (πάθημα, pathema).” And “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
By her own testimony, the graduate’s joyful tears spring from deep fissures of pain: gratitude from redemption.
I suspect we are ashamed of open displays—wipe away tears, apologize or withdraw momentarily—because we know they reveal we are vulnerable, weak: exactly what Jesus became when even “he learned obedience through what he suffered” for our sake; and exactly what he has called us to be for the sake of others.
To a week remaining vulnerable to the burden others carry; that is, to a week of puffy faces and blurred vision.