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  • Writer's pictureMark McMinn

The Path of Descent and the Pool of Tears

Trevor Hudson, a South African pastor and author, recently received the inaugural Richard Foster Award in Spiritual Formation. Though Richard and his son, Nathan, stayed in our Airbnb for the event, Lisa and I didn't attend the award ceremony. That was a mistake.


Thankfully, some friends pointed us toward the Youtube video of Trevor Hudson's address, which is fabulous. Among many memorable parts of his talk, I've been pondering his idea that we all live beside a pool of tears.


We all live beside a pool of tears

Hold onto that image for a moment.


A year ago, Lisa and I removed some overgrown brambles to discover a hidden area on our small property. After shoveling out twenty steps from a rocky hillside, hauling in two tons of gravel in five-gallon buckets and another ton of split-face cinder blocks, it seemed we should name the spot as a reminder of all that hard work. We called it the Path of Descent.

We've loved both the name and the pathway, each of us descending whenever we need space to lament, name our questions and doubts, to offer up our sorrows.


At the foot of the Path of Descent lies a pool, eight feet across and who-knows-how deep, with a small but steady waterfall from an underground culvert that burbles and splashes, sending its contribution of underground spring and rainwater toward the Chehalem watershed. My eight-year-old grandson and I built a bench at the base of the stairway, next to the fall and the pool, which now provides one of the “pausing benches” for reflection in Lisa’s spiritual direction practice.

Yesterday as I sat on the bench Wes and I built, watching January water splash abundant while listening to Chuck Girard sing Lay Your Burden Down, I realized this space needs a new name. I will call it the Pool of Tears.


In these years of semi-retirement and a small clinical psychology practice, I sit with people beside their pools of tears two days a week. That's metaphoric, because I sit on the other side of a Zoom room, separated by however many miles of cyberspace, but still I sit, listen, and care. Pain travels well even through the Internet.


Of course I carry my own pain, too, so I sit often beside this Pool of Tears and notice how tears swirl and churn in my soul for the sadness of the world, for various regrets, for the deep misunderstandings of human connection and disconnection, for how easily we judge and hurt one another, for losses and sorrows rarely spoken.

Then after a time, I lift my eyes and remember that the water eventually leaves the pool, meandering into a lovely wooded forest surrounded by ferns and trees and a rickety wooden bridge. The tears are still there, easing their way through the rugged landscape, enhancing the natural beauty as they flow downhill, renewing my hope that even the most difficult parts of life may eventually contribute to its beauty.

2 Comments


donna.mae.barnhart
Jan 23, 2023

Beautiful. I must descend those steps this year.

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Jeff Crosby
Jeff Crosby
Jan 23, 2023

A beautiful post. Thank you, Mark. Much resonance here with me.

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