You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
Recently, I discovered a wonderful project, a “visual investigation of tears” and resulting book, The Topography of Tears,1 by Rose-Lynn Fisher. The featured image is one of her photographs of tears titled Compassion.2 I would encourage you to view the website and scroll down to see the beautiful artwork of tears “photographed through an optical standard light microscope – a vintage Zeiss from the late 1960’s or 70’s, mounted with a digital microscopy camera.” She describes the project on her website:
“I photographed a range of emotional tears, mainly my own whenever I cried, along with tears from others young and old. I saved my tears onto glass slides, either allowing them to evaporate, or be compressed between glass slide and a thinner glass slip cover. The results of each approach were equally interesting to me. The air-dried tears revealed their organic structure, so similar to natural structures at every scale in nature. The images produced by compressed tears often evoked a sense of place, like aerial views of emotional terrain.”
I was fascinated with the project and the beauty of the tears viewed under a microscope, but especially with her finding that every tear was unique.
“Every tear that I looked at under the microscope had its own visual qualities, its own sort of ‘signature’ whether it was from the same emotion or different emotions. Tears of grief and tears of joy could not be generalized or categorized by their visual pattern. For example, tears of grief could look very different from each other, even when they were shed in the same moment. Also, like a landscape, different areas of a tear examined under a microscope could look different from one region to another … the topography of tears revealed to me a momentary landscape, transient as the fingerprint of someone in a dream.”
A unique fingerprint, a “signature,” on each tear. Isn’t that amazing? I believe our tears are beautiful to God. Everything about us is precious to God, even our pain and sorrow and tears. He remembers each tear, and the source of each tear; and he holds them close to his heart.
“The idea behind the keeping of “tears in a bottle” is remembrance. David is expressing a deep trust in God—God will remember his sorrow and tears and will not forget about him.” — Got Questions
This is what the psalmist has discovered. God sees. God knows. God remembers. We can rest in confidence that he has us in his arms, and he is writing for us a beautiful story.
In the above verse from Psalm 56, the word translated “keep track” means “to count, recount [as in tell someone about something; give an account of an event or experience], relate.” God saves every tear. None are lost or for nothing. God tells our story, what Rose-Lynn Fisher calls “the poetry of life,” through our tears. God records that story for eternity in his book. And, think about it, what if the book is illustrated with beautiful photographs of each of our tears?
What if God is also saving those tears for another precious purpose? What if the artwork of our tears will adorn our heavenly dwelling someday? Each one with its own “signature” like a snowflake, as Rose-Lynn Fisher has discovered. What if we will be able to remember each individual tear, and remember how God came through for us, and saved us and sustained us, suffered along with us, comforted us, and gave us grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16)?
I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. 2 Kings 20:5 (ESV)
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 (ESV)
1Wonderfully, Rose-Lynn Fisher’s photographs of tears were also used to create beautiful wearable lace https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc/index.php/en/102-news/1333-tears-and-lace-of-the-elsa-schiaparelli-fashion-house
2Photograph, Compassion, copyright 2015 by Rose-Lynn Fisher, used by permission from the artist/author.