Our good friend Gary is one of our Sunday School teachers. In reality, all of our Sunday School teachers are our friends. They take turns teaching us and we are grateful. But today was Gary’s turn to teach and he had prepared a most beautiful lesson about our Savior and the prophecies of Isaiah. I won’t go into the details of the lesson, though they are surely worthy of a place in this blog. I might address in writing my ponderings about Isaiah if only I understood him better. Isaiah is one of those prophets who teach us about the power of the Holy Ghost, because we must have the Holy Ghost with us if we are to understand anything Isaiah wrote! Logic doesn’t work well with Isaiah. And that, actually, is what Gary left us with by the end of our lesson: a confirmation from the Holy Ghost that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Isaiah was commissioned to witness about that fact.
What I want to talk about was not the well organized information Gary gave us in his lesson. I want to talk about the picture I have tucked under my heart of Gary sitting up in front as we all watched a video of our prophet, Thomas Monson, telling a sweet story about eternal families. While most people watched the little movie, I watched Gary. I watched him reach into his pocket to retrieve a tissue. I watched him slide the tissue across his cheeks and up under his steamy glasses. I watched him repeat this over and over and the more I watched the more I loved Gary.
Gary has man tears. He’s a well respected doctor. He is a master sailor and a seasoned airplane pilot. He is a modern day adventurer. He can fix anything, and is capable in just about any venture he approaches. He can handle a 50 foot boat on high seas, using his brilliant mind to analyze the situation and make important decisions, and he can muscle a sail against 30 knots of wind. He built his own plane and masterfully flies it in all sorts of difficult situations. He’s a man for sure. A man men can respect. But to me the strongest, most confident and beautiful aspect of Gary is that he can be moved to tears with the slightest whisper of the spirit. Beautiful, plentiful, softly falling man tears.
The man of my heart is also a maker of man tears. He is not one to ever complain, and he is not, and has never been, a whiner. He is strong and capable and dependable and protective. And very manly. Beautifully manly to my woman heart. And when he sits beside me in church and I see him out of my peripheral vision tucking his thumb and fingers up under his glasses, I know he is probably listening better than I am, and I start to pay better attention. I am touched always by his tenderness, and I nearly always pause when I see this to thank the Lord for this kind and gentle man in my life.
I wonder what it is that makes us hold a shield against the creation of tears; why men and women both keep their soft spot crusted over. Maybe allowing ourselves to let go and dive into emotional places makes us feel vulnerable and we don’t feel safe when we’re vulnerable. Or maybe it just takes too much energy to feel the pendulum of emotion swing too quickly so we silently and invisibly hold our hand up against the coming of the Spirit, like the crossing guard at the intersection in front of the schoolyard: “Hold on now, stay right there, you might get hurt.” So we don’t let ourselves go out into the danger zone where we might lose control completely and never regain it and our pride could be damaged in the process.
You have to be very brave to have man tears. Maybe that’s why the most confident men I know, and the most capable, allow those tears to come. They are not afraid. And if there is any concern, they know the source of their real power, and they know that this source is also the source of their tears.
Whatever the reason, I love strong, good and capable men gently wiping tears from their eyes. Man tears. If we could collect them and bottle them I believe we could pour them like sacred oil over the anger and misguided passions of this old wounded world and it might begin to heal.
Gary and Dave aboard Gary's sailboat, Liahona.