Twenty five years ago I bought a CD of the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz returning to his homeland, Russia, for a concert in Moscow. He had been living in voluntary exile for many years, one of the many artists driven out by the oppressive Communist regime. He was welcomed home, not reviled for having been a deserter. the applause after each piece he played was a thunderous affirmation that matters of the heart — including music — are unbounded by the borders and barriers politicians erect.
The concert had been broadcast live the US (though I hadn’t seen it). Andy Rooney, America’s favorite curmudgeon, said this abut the concert:
During the latter part of the concert, watching this 82-year-old genius play, I found mist forming in my eyes for some mysterious reason I could not explain. I was not sad. I was exultant. It had something to do with my pride, at that very moment, in being part of the same civilization that this great and endearing man playing the piano was part of.
Almost at the same instant I felt the suggestion of tears in my eyes, the television camera left Horowitz’s fingers on the keyboard and dissolved to the face of a Soviet citizen in the audience. He did not look like the enemy. His eyes were closed, his head tilted slightly backward so that his face was up…and one lone teardrop ran down his cheek.
It was the same teardrop running down mine.
That same tear was on my cheeks, too. We humans specialize in making war, even though we have a very, very deep longing for peace on earth and goodwill toward all humankind. In those few moments of the Moscow concert, we were reminded that peace really is not so far off . . . if we’ll just put aside our weapons.
There is an unforgettable line in one of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles. (I remember the line but not which book it’s in.) A young girl is with Aslan, the Christ-figure in the Chronicles. She has prayed in vain for God to save her mother from an illness. The girl asks Aslan why he did not save her mother’s life. Aslan says nothing but we see in his eye “a great golden tear.”
That is no explanation for why God allows us to suffer and grieve. It is something deeper: God hurts with us and cries with us. Someday, on the other side of the grave, the suffering may make more sense to us. For now, it is a gift greater than we can quite grasp, that God shares our tears of joy and sorrow, our hurts, our longings, our grief. We never shed a solitary tear because our Lord matches each tear with one of his own.