The joke was on me. I had just proclaimed to a group at camp that I indeed have shed tears watching Toy Story 3. My friend Hank called me on it quick: “You cried during a kid’s film?” My response was equally quick – “Hey, real men cry.” And then the hammer fell: “Real men cry about real things.” With that, the group laughed. And while it was simply a joke and I was the subject of ridicule, I found that we both were speaking truth. Real men do indeed cry over real things.
So how do I reconcile tears over a children’s animated film with that premise? One of the reason Pixar stories are so good is that they find a way to deal with very real things. The real thing being dealt with at the end of Toy Story 3 was that of goodbye. More than anything in the Toy Story world, a toy longs to be played with and bring gladness to their owners. They long for love. As Andy is setting off for college, he determines to leave his toys with a great new owner, one that will love the toys and play with them as often as he did. They have one final play time together. As Andy drives away, he simply says, “Thanks, guys.” Woody’s response in typical cowboy fashion: “So long, partner.” The music of Randy Newman sweeps in and does the rest. The movie is no longer dealing in the area of play things. It is dealing with a life time of friendship coming to an end and a new one beginning. That is very real, and thus, the tears I shed watching it were very real.
Men aren’t really that well known for their tears. We try to swallow them in the midst of injury, hold them back when the hard news hits, and poke them away when the world is watching. Why? Because we want to give off the impression that we are strong. We are not phased by the things this world throws at us. That’s where the shortest verse in Scripture (John 11:35) forces us to take a different look at tears. Simply said – Jesus wept. I ask why? Why would Jesus cry over this man Lazarus who had died when he knew in mere minutes He would call him back from the dead? Only He knows for sure, but I’d like to think it was because He was once again in the presence of death. Though death would never have power in His presence, it still held power over the humanity it claimed. It tore Mary and Martha apart. In the end, it tore God Himself apart. He was broken over our sin that lead us to death’s door. And so tears filled the very eyes of the Son of God, the Son of man.
It’s a far cry (pun intended) from getting swept up in a tale of toys to the weeping over sin and death. But both imply a brokenness, a weakness, a vulnerability. We as men have no longing to be known as any of those things, and yet, Christ would have us be all of those things. He certainly was. When I am broken, weak, and vulnerable, there is a beauty, a strength, and a force moving through me as old as eternity itself. In these tiny moments of tears, I’m not laying down manhood. I’m embracing it.