Staring pensively out his bedroom window, Red looked out at the snow pondering about life. Musing out loud, he asked for what seemed to him the millionth time, “ God, when is it alright for me to cry?” The question had been bugging him for days now. Years even if he were to be honest with himself. Sighing heavily, Red reflected over his life.
Red was an old man. A good man, but old none the less. He was an exceptional fellow who always seemed to have a smile on his face and a bounce to his step. Today, though, Red was not smiling. If the truth be told, Red seldom smiled on the inside. Stirring restlessly, Red ambled painfully to the living room. His arthritis was giving him fits here lately. The silence was deafening. The cry in his heart was even louder. “God, when is it alright for me to cry?” was a constant companion to the heaviness in his chest. Back and forth he paced, and back and forth he fought to silence the terrible cry in his heart.
Finally, conceding defeat, he decided to sit down and write down his thoughts. His dearly departed Mary never failed to take out her diary each day. It seemed to be a refuge for her. He had never taken much stock in writing, but the simple act seemed to bring Mary much closer to his heart. He missed her. Oh, how he missed her. The day they buried his precious Mary was the day they buried a part of his soul. He wanted to cry on that day too, but he had always been taught that “big boys don’t cry”.
Sighing out loud, he wondered where to begin. He’d lived a long time and experienced many things. He almost discarded the idea to write down his thoughts but the pen and paper seemed to draw him. They cried out for him to end the questions racing around in his mind. Hesitantly he began:
When is it alright for me to cry? When is it alright for me to shed the tears that I have carried around with me for the past 81 years? All my life I’ve been told that big boys don’t cry. I’ve lived by that rule all these years and it hasn’t helped one wit. Someone forgot to tell me what to do with the tears. I’ve tried to ignore them but they don’t seem to go away. I’ve heard that time heals all wounds but that’s not true either. I find that I want to ball my eyes out but no one will let me.
Yesterday, I went to church just to sit in Your house. I just needed to be around human company, I guess. You know how it is: going to an all night restaurant just drinking coffee and pretending like you’re just fine sitting there all by yourself when the whole time your insides are dying for someone, anyone, to stop by and say hello. No one ever does but you go there night after night hoping someone might take notice and acknowledge that you are a part of the world.
Anyhow, I was sitting in Your house with that same feeling hoping that someone, anyone, would come by and say hello. No one did, though. There was this one lady who looked like she was going to say hello but she seemed embarrassed by my presence more than anything. I couldn’t understand that because I thought You said we were supposed to love each other? I wanted to sit there and cry out loud but that seemed to be a big no-no. Everyone acted like everything was all hunky-dory. It seemed to be a requirement for everyone to pretend that life was one big bed of roses. God, what are we supposed to do when we have thorns in our rosebed? Are we supposed to act like they are not there? What’s so good about the “Good News” if a guy can’t even be himself around You?
On the way in, I caught this one lady brushing tears from her eyes before she entered the sanctuary. I asked if she was okay and she acted like I had caught her at some heinous crime or something. She threw some kind of “God Bless You” phrase and took off. While we are on the subject, God, why are Your people so afraid to cry? Jesus did. Why can’t they? I left as broken-hearted as I came because everyone seemed to be in the same boat as me but I was the only one who seemed to notice. I wanted to scream at everyone to get real. I almost did, but I didn’t have the heart to ruin their “wonderful time in the Lord”.
Another question God: Why do people spend so much time jumping up and down “praising” You when they are dying inside? Don’t they think that You would understand? DO You understand? Are You the one who started this not crying business? I’d really like to know. I feel awfully stupid writing to You. I don’t even know if You are real or not. How do I know that You are not some fantasy somebody dreamed up so that we could have something to believe in? That’s what I’ve been told anyway. Are you up there God? If you are I need to know. Mary always told me that she felt close to You somehow when she wrote. She said it appeared as if You were right there reading over her shoulder. I’m an old man now and don’t have too many years, so I’d appreciate it if You would let me know sometime before I leave this here old world. I’d like the chance to get to know You if I could. Better still, I’d like the chance to get to know ME. It takes a lot of work bottling up all these emotions.
Just wondering if You’re Listening, RED
Red signed his name with a flourish and got ready for his usual trip to his late night eating place, Charlie’s. Red was super lonely tonight. He wondered for the millionth time if someone, anyone, would take the time to talk to him. He always tried not to get his hopes up because it was always devastating to put on his coat and walk back home knowing that he was alone in the universe. He wondered if there was anyone else who felt half as lonely as he did.
Red almost decided to skip tonight because it was New Year’s Eve. Red hated New Year’s Eve because it was the loneliest night of the year for him. He always went to bed early so he didn’t have to face bringing in the New Year all by himself. Dejectedly, He went through his normal routine of getting out his ratty, brown coat and red scarf that Mary had knit for him. Red’s steps were slow and painful. Tonight the loneliness and the tears were almost more than he could stand. He wondered if he would ever be cared about. He wondered where this “All-loving God” was that the preacher spoke about on Sundays. He just plain wondered.
Seating himself quietly, Red wondered if someone, anyone, would amble by and speak to him tonight. The waitress plunked down a menu without so much as a backwards glance and hurried back to her conversation with a fellow worker. With tears tugging at his heart, Red almost cried out for her to speak to him. Dejectedly, he went about his normal routine of scanning the menu to pick out something “different” tonight. Meanwhile, someone, somewhere was watching. Someone was watching and…
Back home, in Heaven, God sobbed quietly as He watched Red suffering in silence. God knew exactly what Red was going through for He suffered through those same feelings. God wept as He thought of Red’s journal entry about feeling lonely in church. God identified with that feeling also. He tried many a time to enter His sanctuary to sit with one of the congregation members only to be rudely jolted aside. God longed for friendship and fellowship as deeply as Red. More so if the truth were told. At least Red had the option of being seen and recognized without all the guilt, shame, rejection, and baggage that people always brought with them when they reached out to God. How He longed for someone, anyone, to just reach out to Him in companionship and love. How He craved to be seen just for Himself and not a prize-toting Santa Claus. God marveled at how people could get so angry at the mere thought of being “used” feeling no apparent qualms when it came to using Him.
So, God completely understood Red’s plight and determined within Himself to do something about it. Quietly removing Himself from His throne in Heaven, God entered the restaurant and took His place beside Red. Taking note of His surroundings, God deliberated over whom to call over. The restaurant was full of gaily dressed and apparently happy people. But God knew better. He knew that the majority were is lonely and felt as isolated as Red. He marveled how people could be in such pain and yet were so adept at hiding it. Or so they thought. Pain was easily recognizable to one sensitive to its cry. Pain was deafening to one acclimated to its song. Yes, pain and isolation was a song sung by millions around the world. Trouble was that most ran from this song, most covered this song with noise and activity.
Seeing a smartly dressed young man sitting alone in a corner of the restaurant, God gently tugged on his spirit. The young man jerked his head around as if someone had called his name. He surveyed the room, noticing an old man sitting at a table by himself. He felt a sudden urge to walk over and salute the stranger. Shaking his head at the odd notion, he went about his business of reading the sport’s section.
God sighed within Himself and tried again. This time, a pastor and his wife entered the restaurant ordering a light meal. Again, God tugged on the man’s spirit, and again the man swung his head around as if called. The pastor noticed Red sitting alone, but felt too tired to be “sociable”. He had a long session of sermon preparation and had little time for small talk. God knew that the young pastor would take no notice of Red. Why, he had hardly given his wife so much as a “by your leave” or even inquired about her day.
Patron after patron entered the restaurant, and patron after patron dismissed the tugging on their heartstrings to say hello to Red. The more that people entered and exited without speaking, the more humiliated and lonely Red felt. Tears slid down God’s face as the young waitress approached the table. Red perked up immediately, believing the young woman would spend a few moments with him as he noticed her gaily chatting with the young man who had been reading the sports section. God hung His head in shame for He had read her heart as she approached and talking was the furthest thing from her mind. Her aim was to collect her tip and send Red on his way so that she could end her shift and join the party she had been invited to.
Rudely informing Red that the restaurant would be closing soon, she slapped his ticket on the table and departed. Defeated, Red donned his coat and hurried from the restaurant. The walk home seemed endless. Red WANTED it to be endless for in a moment he would be entering his cold, lifeless apartment once again.
Turning the lock on the outside world, Red again felt the tears welling up in his heart. This time he didn’t hesitate to pick up his newly started journal. Painfully, he wrote to God about his experience in the restaurant. He wrote:
When is it alright for me to cry? I hurt inside. God, I hurt all over. I don’t know what to do with these tears. I’m angry with myself God. I don’t know why I keep putting myself in a position to be hurt. I feel stupid saying this but back there at that restaurant I could have sworn that there were some people who were going to speak to me tonight. They didn’t though. I saw the pastor from the church I went to the other day and was sure that he would say hello but I guess that he was too busy talking to you. I’m lonely, God, and don’t know what to do about it. You’d think that I would be old enough now to be able to deal with being lonely. I’ve found that the longer I live, the worse my loneliness gets. Is it supposed to be this way God? What’s the use of hearing eloquent sermons about the love of God and “loving your neighbor” when no one will even say hello?
Why, some of the same people that shook my hand and gave me a hearty “God bless you” were the same people who sat in that restaurant and couldn’t even say hello. I’m confused God. I’m angry God. I try not to want companionship and love because it hurts so bad when I don’t get it. I try to place worth and value into my own heart but that doesn’t work either. That’s like trying to get a warm feeling from hugging yourself. What a crock. I hurt God, I hurt. God, when is it alright for me to cry? What would be the point anyway? I have no one to hear my tears. I have no one to dry my eyes. I have no one.
Hurting and wondering where You are, RED
Red ended his entry and prepared for bed. Turning out his light, Red questioned his sanity about writing to God. He ruminated that it was a waste of time for he couldn’t even get a waitress that was “paid” to be sociable to talk to him. He was asleep almost instantly and blessedly missed all the midnight hoopla.
Back home in Heaven, God was wrestling with a quandary. He had read Red’s journal entry and was determining the best way to answer Red’s questioning heart. Deciding that the best approach was a direct approach, God determined to be Red’s pen pal and tucked an answering response in Red’s journal.
Red awoke the next morning to an intense light shining in his eyes. He was puzzled as he was sure that he had drawn the blinds. Looking towards the window, he indeed discovered closed window blinds. Looking to his right, he noticed his journal glowing on the night stand. Frightened, Red hesitantly approached to see the strange sight. Fearing the worst, Red opened his journal and was speechless by what he found.
Beneath his last journal entry were words in Brush Script blazing with fire. Strangely, the fire neither went out nor consumed the pages. Excitedly Red read the words and found that they set off a fire in his spirit:
I have waited a long time to be able to “talk” with you this way. In fact, I am the One who placed the longing within you. You see, Red, I too have that same longing for relationship and love. I was there with you in that restaurant tonight. I cried on the inside for you. I can’t wait to get to know you and have you get to know me. I just wanted to be the first in your life to just say “hello”. I called many others to do so but hey, it’s their loss not yours. Your value is not in how many people you get to acknowledge your presence. Your value does not come whether they speak or don’t speak, whether they love or don’t love you. I love you. But, alas, I am getting ahead of Myself. I can’t convince you of things you don’t yet see. You will. I’ll be speaking with you again soon.
Red wept as he read his journal. Finally, someone had said hello. And not just any old somebody. God Himself had taken the time to acknowledge his presence. He hadn’t known how badly his heart had been needing to be spoken to. He still had torrents of tears he wanted to cry, but at least now he had a few tears of joy to shed.
Tearing into his clothing, Red tore over to his desk and prepare to write to God again. In the middle of his first sentence, Red had to drop his pencil at the awesome notion that GOD was talking to him. Suddenly, he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to come off as an idiot or sound pushy. Deciding to wait until he felt more “worthy”, Red went on his usual morning stroll. His journal kept calling out to him, but suddenly he felt to worthless to be talking to God. He thought of all the times that he had scoffed at the very idea that there even was a God. His mind recalled the many times that Mary had attempted to get him to go to church. His mind played scenes back to him of the many times he had felt a tugging at his soul.
Disheartened by what he saw, Red decided that God really wouldn’t want to get to know a Cad like himself. Why, wasn’t he one of those “sinners” that preachers talked about? Red was crushed because he really did want to get to know God but now guilt and shame were getting in his way. Red’s heart cried within him to get him to again write to God but this time he was too afraid. He was afraid that there would be words of condemnation and wrath waiting for him. He was terrified that he would see all his mistakes and the many times he had laughed at God waiting for him.
God grieved as He watched Red struggling with these all too familiar feelings. God wept in loneliness waiting for Red to respond to the tugging that God placed in his heart. Day after day, God called for Red, and day after day Red reacted in fear and shame. In a quandary, God wondered what He should do. He had given man free will and free reign over their emotions so Red was perfectly within his province to be tormenting himself so. But God’s love for Red was so strong that He decided to initiate the next “meeting” between them. When Red returned from his walk, he found a letter waiting for him next to his journal. Red ignored the letter certain that all manner of doom awaited him. Finally, he could take the suspense no longer and found the following response waiting for him:
I have been waiting anxiously to hear from you. I love you with an everlasting love and desire to be your closest companion. Well I know the struggle that you are feeling in your heart right now. This world would have you think that I am a harsh task master waiting for your every slip up. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
There is not one day that passes that I don’t long for the company of My dear children. I want you to know My heart. I want you to “touch My nail-scarred hands” and see that I AM real.
Love Me Red, and let Me love you. I wait to hear from you
Sobbing in relief, Red sat down and read his letter several times. He could scarcely believe that God would want to talk to someone like him.
Excitedly, Red thought of all things he had been wanting to ask God. Suddenly, his loneliness receded in a flood of warm feelings. He basked in the feeling as he had never felt such completeness, such wholeness. He was humbled that someone, anyone wanted to love him. He found that he wanted, no needed to be loved.
With shaking hands, Red slowly composed another journal entry:
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Thanks for not making me feel like a heel for not coming to You sooner. I find that I have a million questions for you and yet can’t write down one. I feel like a starving man being given the opportunity for a last meal. What to eat first? I don’t know. Here goes nothing. God, when is it alright to cry? What am I supposed to do with all this pain that I have hid inside my heart for so long? I find that I am afraid it. I’m scared that these feelings will overwhelm me. I’m afraid that You will show me things about myself that I don’t like. I’m just plain scared, God. Of you. Of me. Of letting anyone get to know me. What if there is nothing worth getting to know? God, show me my heart. Show me my heart as you see it. Not like I’ve learned to look at it. I’m afraid that I let other people color the way that I see myself and now I don’t even know what’s good and pure on my insides. God show me my heart.
Waiting anxiously RED
God read Red’s letter with great enjoyment. He delighted in Red as He did His other children. Red filled a need in God for companionship and love. He took pleasure in writing to Red and showing him His heart.
God and Red grew close over time. Both relished their time together. It was hard put to tell who received the greatest enjoyment and love from their fellowship. After a while, letter writing was not enough and God started to visit Red in person. Initially, Red was frightened and treated God with solemn politeness. But over the course of time, God wore Red down and they had a whale of a time together. They spent many, many hours together sharing each other’s hearts. God discovered that Red loved corny jokes and Red found out that God loved to tell them. They kept each other shrieking with laughter. Red couldn’t believe that God had such a kooky sense of humor. There were many things that Red found out about God. He discovered that God was intensely passionate about His children and that He cried often because of them. God shared many of His thoughts about His children but He kept the majority of His pain to Himself.
But Red noticed that God often would grow quiet and would seem saddened in His heart. On those days, God cut their visits short as He had no wish to burden His beloved Red. One day, when he could bear the Lord’s pain no longer, Red asked God what was the matter. He asked if he were the source of God’s pain. He asked if he had done something wrong, something to displease his newfound friend.
God assured Red that He had done nothing wrong. Red continued to prod the Lord until He admitted that He was grieving over His children’s indifferent and non-caring attitude. God wept bitterly as He recalled the many times He had reached out to His children only to be shut out of their lives completely. That is until they needed something, He admitted almost in embarrassment. Who wanted to admit that they were wanted only because they came bearing gifts?
God grieved deep in His spirit. He longed for someone, anyone to just say “hello”. He wanted to be to them what He had become to Red. He wanted to protect His children but He WAS more than a bodyguard. He was more than a grace-toting Ed McMahon, handing out winning lottery tickets to any who asked of Him. His Son’s life meant more than a “guarantee” that His children could “live like Hell” then use His precious Son’s blood as a “get out of jail(Hell) free card”!
God became livid thinking at how callously His Beloved Son, Jesus, was treated by those who professed to be “Christians”. The word almost made God sick to His stomach. His Son freely gave His life so that man could live life victoriously, not party til they dropped. His Son was treated as callously as Red had been treated in that restaurant. Oh, people were fine as their “needs” were being met but what about His?
What about the needs of others? What about the needs of their supposed Heavenly Father! What about the needs of one like Red who required one simple word to know that he mattered?
God stopped His musings, gazing sadly into Red’s heart noticing all the scars that had come from years of neglect, from years of not being seen, from years of not being acknowledged as being human. Tenderly, God gathered Red’s heart into His hands and wept quietly over it. To Red’s astonishment, he found that God’s tears were healing his broken heart. God began to cry the tears that Red had built up for years. God became Red’s conduit and let the tears flow freely.
He cried for all the lost years, he cried for ever instance that Red was ignored. He cried every time Red reached out in hope, only to have his hand slapped by cold hearts, by non-caring hearts, by busy hearts. God grieved for Red because Red symbolized His Son, Jesus. He cried deeply because Red represented His OWN heart. The world would be amazed to find that He grieves as deeply as they do. He loves. He wants. He has dreams for His children as any parent does. He needs. Yes, contrary to popular opinion, God does need. He needs His children’s love. He needs His children’s respect. He needs His children’s honor. He needs for someone, anyone to just call Him just to say “hello”.
Shedding the last tear, God solemnly placed Red’s heart back into it’s place. As God was removing His hand, Red reached out and took hold of it. Tenderly, Red placed a kiss in the palm of God’s hand. Reaching up, Red brushed the tears out of God’s eyes and gave Him a hug that wracked the body of the Great King. Together, they prepared for Red’s usual trip to Charlie’s.
They selected Red’s usual table. He began to go through his usual routine when he felt an intense tugging at his heart. He paused to find a melody coursing through his heart. This time, his melody was not one of personal isolation and emptiness. He strained to hear and was astonished to hear the hearts of many patrons calling for someone, anyone to stop by and say “hello”. He looked up to find God staring compassionately at Him. God said:
I healed your heart so that you would be able to hear other hearts crying out in pain, isolation, and loneliness. I healed you so that you could heal others if that was your choice. This world is in need of those who will love others. This world is in need of those who would put aside their needs to fill the needs of others. This world is in need of those who are not afraid to admit, as you did, that they HAVE needs. Then and only then can I come and be with them. Then and only then can I take their heart into My hands to heal it. Red, it is time for Me to return home. Know that I will always reside inside you, but now you must be the one to reach out. Fear not, My friend, I will come when you call.
With one last corny joke, God returned to Heaven confident that Red would make it. Never again would Red have to doubt that He was loved. God seated Himself on His throne in the Heavenlies. He had much work to do for He had another of His children in His sights.
Back in the restaurant, Red felt a tugging to speak to the young lady across the room. Looking closer, he discovered that it was the same woman that had been crying in church the first day that Red had attempted to reach God. Smiling, Red made his way across the room.
The young woman never noticed Red walking up to her. Annie was her name. Tonight she was especially lonely. She had been feeling tears welling inside her for months now. Years even if the truth were told. Sadly she wondered for the millionth time if someone, anyone would just stop by and just say hello. Her loneliness almost overwhelmed her. But somewhere, someone was watching.
Strolling confidently up to the table, Red stretched out his hands, looked deeply into her eyes and said…..”HELLO”!
Yes, there IS someone, somewhere watching over us. He waits for our call. He waits for us to let Him into our hearts. He waits for us to drop the baggage that we know as guilt, fear, shame, and hopelessness. He waits to reach out to us. He waits to tell us corny jokes. But mostly, He longs to reach inside our hearts and cry healing tears over them. He is waiting for you. Waiting for you to just stop by and say………………..”HELLO”!