“I have seen so much in my life, I didn’t think my heart could break. I didn’t think I could be touched by anything. But my heart is broken now, and I don’t know what to do.”
This was what an Airman told me during my recent Air Force Reserve duty as a chaplain.
After we finished talking I thought about what he said – about how his once impenetrable heart had been suddenly broken and he was left wondering what’s next. Despite his defenses his heart had been breached.
I thought about how all of us, from time to time, surround ourselves with walls and barriers and claim that no one can touch us, or break us. I thought about how lonely this makes us in the end.
I’m reminded of that C.S. Lewis quote from The Four Loves,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give our heart to no one, not even to an animal…lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
The conversation with the Airman had me thinking – Have I made my heart like a sort of casket – impenetrable, or am I vulnerable?
I mean, sure, I love my family, and my friends. Certainly I love God.
But do I really love others? Does my heart break for people I don’t know? Does my heart break at all?
As Christians, have we surrounded our hearts with bubblewrap and packing peanuts, not to be exposed to that which we are unfamiliar with?
As Christians, what breaks our hearts?
This Fall, The Mix (our college & young adult group) will be studying the life of Nehemiah on Sunday Mornings at 9:15am (We start on Aug 25th – we’d love for you to join us). Nehemiah has a remarkable story, and it starts with the fact that had a heart that broke.
When Nehemiah, from the comforts of the King’s court in Persia, heard that the wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed and his people were in trouble the Bible says that he “sat down and wept, and mourned for days” (Neh 1.4).
He opened himself up to the struggles of others in a distant land – and their struggles broke his heart.
It’s hard to make ourselves vulnerable. It’s not fun to be susceptible to pain. However, we can’t underestimate the power that comes from a broken heart. If we let Him, God can turn the pain that comes from what was meant for harm into action that helps, that heals, that does great things in the kingdom of God. Nehemiah is a prime example of this.
In our lives as Christians, the worldly view of strength is turned on its head. Strength doesn’t mean strong walls and towers in our lives. Strength means having the courage to let our walls down, letting our hearts break for and with others, and then doing something about it. After all, isn’t this exactly what Jesus did?
This line from the poet John Donne has turned into a prayer for me. Maybe it could be for you too…
O might those sighs and tears return again,
Into my breast and eyes, which I have spent,
That I might in this holy discontent
Mourn with some fruit…
Maybe your heart is already broken from something in your own life. That’s okay. Thankfully, God is a God who believes in building things that have been broken and creating beauty from ashes.
So may we mourn, but may we do it with fruit – with action – like Nehemiah did. Like God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit did for us once and does with us for all time.
So for those of us who need to have the strength to let our guard down, here are some questions to consider:
What breaks your heart?
Where could you be more tender?
Where is the first place you turn when your heart breaks?