All the feels.
I struggled yesterday coming up with Friday Favorites. In light of all that’s acting out in front of us on the world’s stage, I couldn’t come up with a kitschy, consumeristic, head-in-the-sand post about what products I love or what favorite item I recommend you buying all while I watch mothers in Iraq throw their babies on a helicopter believing that the unknown destination of the helicopter is far better than the reality that awaits on the side of a mountain.
Don’t misunderstand, I want to stick my head in the sand. I want to look away. I want to change the channel. Oh, hey look, it’s a rerun of Friends. I want to buy all the things in an attempt to emotionally numb myself. I want to meet up here and discuss mom jeans, favorite mascaras, whether or not Justin and Selena will get back together, and how we feel about Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Martin being a “hot new couple.”
The blinders would have to be extremely large, though, if I really want to turn a blind eye to the chaos, the brokenness, the prejudice, and the pain unfolding on the world’s stage.
Because it’s not only Iraq. It seems to be everywhere.
It’s mental illness and suicide.
It’s racism and prejudice.
It’s sickness and viruses.
It’s persecution and suffering.
It’s injustice and oppression.
And, that’s the macro, global picture.
From my micro,infinitesimal vantage point, I’ve recently been bombarded with stories of abortion, immorality, sexual impurity, abuse, neglect, and depression. I’m not immune to these stories (or even being these stories), by no means; however, these stories are the rule lately and not the exception.
It’s too much. It’s. Too. Much.
Stefan asked me this morning what’s been wrong with me lately. I initially dodged the question and told Stefan that I always admired people who prayed, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours, Lord.” These reverent words carry much weight and responsibility with them so I often refrain from whispering them. I know a prayer like that is costly. A prayer like that takes courage. A prayer like that may even be crushing. Even to the one of the most impenetrable hearts like mine.
I’m not a cruel or dispassionate person. I’m really not. But, I’m also not the girl you want to go to if you want someone to cry with you. I want to be that girl. I’ll try to be that girl. Believe me, I’ll try. On more than one occasion, I’ve bit the inside of my cheek hoping for a tear, just one tear, to form in my eye and roll down my cheek so that the person across the table pouring her heart out could feel my empathy. I can never muster a tear, but the inside of my mouth is bleeding. Counts for something, right?
My family and close friends know this about me. My book club calls me Ole Icy Heart. My kids pretty much think Jesus is coming back on the rare occasions they see me cry. I simply cannot cry when it’s appropriate.
So, imagine my surprise when I started crying in the middle of Marshall’s Thursday afternoon.
I don’t know what was so significant about Thursday. Or Marshall’s. I mean, I don’t like the fashions out there: the high-waisted pants, or crop tops, or dresses that look like shirts, but it was definitely not a reason for Ole Icy Heart to cry like a baby or lose my mind. (up in hur. up in hur.)
Here’s the deal. Here’s what’s wrong with me. I started whispering that prayer a few months ago. You know the one I previously mentioned in the above paragraphs. It’s like the prayer-which-must-not-be-named. And, it’s crushing me.
It’s crushing me in the middle of Marshall’s. It’s crushing me in the middle of vacation. It’s crushing me when I take communion. It’s crushing me drinking coffee with my husband on a lazy Saturday morning.
The faces of desperation.
The faces of fear.
The faces of insecurity.
The faces of anger.
The faces of racism.
The faces of hunger.
The faces of grief.
The faces of mental illness.
They are all crushing me! They are devastating me. They are breaking my heart.
I knew this would happen, too! I knew if I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His, He would answer my prayer. My heart would be broken. Over and over and over again. See, people like me resolve to feel only some of the feels because if we feel all the feels we will not recover. And, I’m not. I’m not “getting over it.” I am not recovering from my broken heart.
Here’s the crazy thing: I don’t think I’m supposed to recover. I don’t think we are supposed to recover. What would that say about us–as people who follow Jesus–if we recovered quickly from our brothers’ and sisters’ persecution, desperation, grief, helplessness, or fear? What if we said, “Oh, we’ll just get over it.”
No one would ever say that, right?
But, we change the channel. Oh, hey look it’s a rerun of Friends.
We spend our money on the current fashions all while feeling “blessed” and “grateful” God has provided.
We eat too much (or drink too much) because we cannot handle the emotions as we look the other way.
We numb ourselves with cursory activities and passive escapism.
We convince ourselves that since we can’t do everything to help, we’ll do nothing.
Or maybe that’s just me.
There’s a verse in Proverbs 4 that says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” I think maybe I’ve misinterpreted this verse. Or, maybe I never understood it in the first place.
I’ve spent too much of my life “guarding my heart” by protecting it. Protecting it from all the feels. Protecting it like a fortress-I say what goes in, and what comes out. I am in ultimate control.
But, what God is teaching me is that maybe “guarding my heart” doesn’t mean guard as in protect, but as in look after my heart and wisely give my heart away. If my heart is a guarded fortress, it’s motionless and stationary. It’s protected, but it’s lifeless. And, the second part of the verse says that my heart determines the course of my life. Do I want my life to be motionless, stationary, lifeless?
Rather, what if I look after my heart? I guard my heart by protecting it from lifeless, superficial idols which will lead me astray; and, I guard my heart by wisely giving it away to the only One capable of bringing life and wholeness to it.
I want my heart, in the hands of Jesus, to determine the course of my life. I want my heart to be broken for what breaks His because the brokenness ushers in action which determines the course of my life. And, I want the course of my life to proclaim wholeness only found in Jesus, freedom for the captive, restoration for desperate and desolate, and hope for the mom who throws her baby on the helicopter trusting the destination is better than the reality.
Here’s where it gets messy. I don’t know what all this means. I don’t have three action steps for us to work through to determine how our broken hearts translate into practical help for all the peoples, in all the places, in all the problematic situations in the world.
But, I know there are needs right in front of me that I can do something about.
And, I know Jesus, Who carefully shepherds my heart, will lead me to practical, tangible ways I can help. He will lead you too. He will guard our hearts from being lifeless fortresses, but rather shepherd our hearts to be well springs of life. But, our hearts will break.
And, through that brokenness, I trust He will prompt us to act, to love in tangible ways, and to speak the hope that we are not home yet.
Because I am convinced that our destination is far better than the reality of this world.
We also believe, and that belief leads us to acknowledge that the same God who resurrected the Lord Jesus will raise us with Jesus and will usher us all together into His presence. All of this is happening for your good. As grace is spread to the multitudes, there is a growing sound of thanks being uttered by those relishing in the glory of God.
So we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting;it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.