Aug 09

In Other Words: What is that “Thing” you are carrying around?

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We all have days of contemplation; days when we ponder “life” in terms of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. I used to think that “Everyone Else” had all of that figured out. I mean, don’t you sometimes just assume that “Everyone Else” has a life that is free from anxiety, stress, and struggle? Especially when we all look so good out in public. Even our online presence can portray only that part of our lives that we are comfortable sharing with others. It is difficult to express the loss, the sadness, the brokenness in our hearts. But when we do, we discover that God uses our pain to touch other hearts and lives . . . . because, really, we all have a broken heart. So when I read the blog post that inspired the quote this week, I was touched by the honesty of this mom and her willingness to be vulnerable by sharing her pain for all the world to see.

Although I personally have never experienced the loss of a child through death, and I cannot imagine how one would ever survive that kind of pain, there are other kinds of heartbreak that are also hard to imagine. And sometimes, it is difficult to put your heart right out there in the open, before God and everyone, and risk being criticized. Even now, as I am writing this, I wonder: “Could I really say what is in my heart? Could I really be this honest? Or would I make someone uncomfortable with my truth?” Then I realize that this is just a blog  ;o) and if anyone should happen to pass by, and not like my words and my story, then I suppose they could just move along and read something else. But the vulnerability is still scary! And the honesty could be more than some people would want to hear.

But truth is a great healer of broken hearts, along with time and patience. It helps when God brings another Broken Heart to come along side of you, but speaking the truth has a way of taking the first step on a journey to healing. As angry as it might make us, when we are right in the midst of the torrent of tears and the devastation of our disappointments, it is true that this heartbreak is God’s gift. I know this because I have experienced His grace to face my own loss and grief, and without that “gift” of brokenness, we cannot move to a place of healing.

Why does it have to be that way? I have no idea, but I am old enough to know that everyone experiences heart break, and we all get to choose what to do with it. There have been days when it seemed as if I was holding a tangible “thing” in my hands; my pain was so overwhelming that I wanted to take that “thing” and fling it against a wall and smash it all to pieces. It was so heavy that I had trouble breathing, or walking, or even taking one more step. We all have to choose what we are going to do with that “thing” that is suffocating us in grief. We can choose to carry it around for the rest of our lives and allow it to devour us, destroy us, and eventually become the “thing” that dominates every thought, every word, every action in our life. Or we can recognize it for what it is, accept the truth of how and why this “thing” came to be such a huge part of life, and choose to allow that pain to bring us face to face with the grace of our God – and let him heal our broken heart.

I’ve known people who have made different choices in how they handle the big, ugly “thing” in their lives called a broken heart. My own mother was one who chose to be angry with the world because it had inflicted so much pain on her heart. She lived her final years in a constant state of agitation, frustration, anxiety, and negativity. She was miserable, and she made everyone around her miserable, too. Eventually I just had to accept the fact that this was my mother, and I would never be able to have the kind of relationship with her that I had hoped for, and prayed for, my entire life. I loved my mother, but I did not really know her because she would never let anyone get close enough to her to discover what she had hidden behind all of that anger.

But God brought another woman into my life who showed me that we do not need to allow those “things” in our life to defeat and destroy us. My dear friend Fern was 70 years old when I met her, playing honky-tonk piano in a little country cafe. She could not read music, so as she played the old piano over in the corner, she was always making eye contact and smiling at everyone who had stopped by for a hamburger or a cup of coffee. One day she told me about her three-year-old son who had died – 50 years ago. Her heart was still broken, and she remembered every little detail of his too-short life. When Fern passed away at the age of 86, she had touched the hearts and lives of so many people because she allowed God to mend her broken heart . . . . perhaps that is a better way of thinking about broken hearts; perhaps they never truly “heal,” but I know that God in His gracious lovingkindness can “mend” any heart that has been torn apart by loss and disappointment.

That is His gift to us. We are not promised that life will be easy or comfortable, but we can choose to accept the comfort of God’s love and allow Him to “mend” our brokenness so that we, then, in turn can speak words of hope, encouragement, and comfort to others. But it’s our choice what we are going to do with that ugly “thing” called pain that comes to each and every one of us at sometime along our journey of life. In place of the pain, we can welcome into our hearts the More that He is to help us regain our strength and carry on with life. Although your heart is breaking right now, won’t you choose to allow God to bring you beauty for ashes? He wants to hold you and carry you, even now, this minute, if you are struggling to take that next step.

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