Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Thoughts on Repentance and Ash Wednesday


They say that the Inuit language has, like, thirty-seven words for snow because Eskimos are so overly familiar with the stuff that it would be silly to just refer to “snow” in general.
That’s probably not true, of course, but it makes a good, broader point. There are many different types of snow, different kinds of love, different forms of stress, etc. and oversimplifying can lead to problems.
And, as we commence our observance of Lent in the Christian church (except those hardcore Presbyterians—it’s too “popish” for them), with a day that is traditionally associated with ashes, sackcloth, and repentance, we might stop to consider that there are different kinds of tears.

A VARIETY OF TEARS FOR A VARIETY OF OCCASIONS

I’m sort of an expert on this (meaning, I read a Wikipedia article), so let me fill you in. You’ve got your basal tears, which are for lubricating your eyes and actually serve as part of your immune system. Then you’ve got your irritant tears. These are more reactive, like when a particularly nasty blast of wind comes your way, or you walk into a sand storm.
Then, of course, there are emotional tears, which actually have a different chemical structure from the tears used for lubrication. So if your buddy says he has “something in his eye” while watching Up, you could prove him wrong in a lab, with a sample of his tears, because emotional tears contain stress hormones.
So that’s the scientific classification, but we all know that emotional tears can be subdivided into many more categories. Infants have three kinds of crying: basic, anger, and pain. When we had a baby, I was told that I would eventually learn the difference between “hungry” crying and “diaper” crying, but I call shenanigans on that.

BIBLICAL TEARS

As we grow up, we develop more complex categories of tears. These are common to all humans and have been from the beginning. We even see them in the Bible. I would . . .

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