“And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” Genesis 45:2, NRSV
When Joseph is finally revealing his identity to his brothers, he weeps uncontrollably. We can imagine tears for the years lost, for being brought together, for the unreconciled wrong between them, for the grief and pain about what has transpired and for the raw, ragged emotion of the whole situation. Maybe he did not even know that he had such tears to come forth. He wept upon his brother, Benjamin, and he kissed and wept upon all of his brothers.
It’s interesting that we are never told that the brothers weep. They are dismayed. Finally they speak. But we are not told of weeping or kissing on their part. We are really not even given a good apology scene. The story marches ahead with plans for Jacob’s family to relocate to Egypt. We don’t see tears and wailing on the part of the brothers. Does their guilt hold them back? Are they so wracked with regret that they have become expert at keeping their feelings down?
This makes me wonder about crying. When do we cry? How much do we cry? When has there been sobbing and wailing? Uncontrollable grief? The way Joseph’s crying is portrayed, we see that this reconnection and reconciliation is momentous and made even more poignant by the complete surprise involved. Surely Joseph never expected to see his brothers again. And the feelings are overwhelming. I am wondering when we let ourselves be overwhelmed by our feelings. When we just let it out.
The brothers, the guilty ones, seem more reserved, more hesitant, more stoic. Does guilt stifle feelings of grief and tears? Does regret lead to stuffing feelings for self preservation? Maybe there are things we need to let surface this Lenten season.
Tears are a gift that help us to know our hearts. We are told that even Jesus wept. Crying is not weak, it is human. May we not be afraid of the tears that are evidence of our full humanity. Amen.