(Disclosure for my non-churchy friends: this is pretty churchy. I know you’ll understand and forgive me.)
For as long as I have memory, I have sung in church.
First as a preschooler, perched on someone’s lap and, at that point in my life, a capella, as was the tradition of the Church of Christ we attended. Then in children’s musicals and church choirs and occasionally for funerals and weddings or other special services and sometimes in college as a substitute second soprano at St. Peter’s Episcopal in Rome, Georgia.
These days, I’m singing with a great group of vocalists and musicians that comprise the worship band at my church–it isn’t always my kind of music (they know I’m a pipe organ and Bach girl from way back), but I still love it. I love being part of the worship service that way. I love being able to offer that bit of myself to everyone else. I love being engaged enough in the moment to help (hopefully) the other people in the sanctuary feel a part of things.
Sometimes it gets to me. Sometimes what we’re singing strikes such a chord in me that I have to fight to stay focused on what I’m doing. Sometimes the lyrics mean so much to me that a lump rises in my throat and I have to swallow it back so notes can come out.
Such a thing happened yesterday. With these words, “Break my heart for what breaks yours….” I’ve sung the song the words come from a hundred times at least. And I have never been particularly crazy about it. But yesterday…man…yesterday those words burrowed right under my skin and took up residence.
Break my heart for what breaks yours.
In other words, make my heart ache, God, the way yours does–over all the things.
All the things.
The men and women and children living in tents just a few miles from my own warm, safe, well-cared for home. The families struggling so hard to make ends meet, especially as the holiday season comes rushing in with its expectations, its commercialism, its insistence on perfection. The children mourning the death of a mother or father. The children living the pure hell of war in places like Syria and Uganda. The children learning the new normal of mom and dad divorced. The children who won’t have enough to eat over the holiday break from school, because they depend on school for breakfast and lunch. The children who go to bed every night praying that tomorrow angry fists won’t land on them in fits of rage. The children… The children… All the children.
All the things.
The ways we continue to use the blessing/curse of social media in this country as a way for us snipe and snark and pick at each other in a million ways and with seemingly no thought for the ways our words can destroy another. The refusal to listen to each other. The insistence on our way/truth/understanding being the only way/truth/understanding. The gun violence. The heroin. The lack of decent and accessible and affordable health care for so many.
All the things.
The things personal. The things communal. The things spoken. The things unspoken.
All the things. Break my heart for all the things, God (or Love, or Creator, or Allah, or YHWH, or whatever/whoever…), that break yours.
Some of my dearest friends are adoptive parents. And one family in particular, has two (of their four) sons adopted from Ethiopia. And they tell me that this song I’m speaking of, this, “break my heart for what breaks yours,” was an important song for them when they were making the decision to adopt their second son. They felt it was a call. On their hearts. To do what they had the strength and resources to do. And so they offered a new life and a new family to a little boy who desperately needed both. They’d be the first to tell you they are not heroes…they’re just people who listened when life spoke to them, and acted on what they’d heard.
And that’s the thing, y’all. It’s that simple. What’s the thing that breaks your heart wide open for the world? What sadness or suffering or unfairness leaves you awake at night? What digs into your heart and stays there, demanding that you pay attention to it?
Excuse me while I make like Oprah for a second, but the one thing I know for sure is this–it is possible, that out of brokenness–even the most painful and hellish and unimaginable brokenness–something good and true can be given birth. This does not make the brokenness go away. Nor does it make it desired. But when the brokenness has happened, it is possible, in ways I don’t even begin to understand, for something good to be given life.
I stake my life on this.
And so whatever it is that is breaking your heart apart, chances are it is breaking God’s or the universe’s too. And chances are it’s awful. And it hurts in ways you can’t describe. And it leaves you incapable some days of hoping for anything, any moment, any day, that will be better.
But what if in the depths of our broken hearts, lies the the very thing that could bring us all into the light again? What if in the midst of all that is wrong with the world we found a way to shed light on all that is right? Because it’s true that, as Leonard Cohen (rest in peace, you brilliant man) wrote, “there’s a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.”
I want very much for 2016 to be over. To be put to blessed rest. It has been the worst of years for so many I love, and for our country, too. But I also don’t want to miss these last days of it. Because maybe there’s something to learn about how terrible it’s all been but also about how good it might be again one day. Maybe there’s hope to be found in trusting that the way things are now is not the way they will always be. Maybe there is room for healing in our broken hearts–enough for all.
All the things. Break my heart for all the things. So that in the midst of the brokenness there might be made room for all the things to be made new…and whole…and full of grace and love.