My little heart is breaking, and the only way I can think to fix it is to travel to a dusty war-torn country thousands of miles away to pick up the shattered shards that have fallen there. To stand in amongst those flying bullets, to have the shock of a rocket vibrate through me, to be momentarily deafened by the blast of a bomb. To see the fire and smoke rise on the horizon and in it see a part of my hope and a part of my sanity fade away into nothing. Yet as it rises I also feel in it my resolve strengthen, my weeping intensify, my anger at injustice surge up once more.
With each explosion my heart breaks again for these people who cannot run to an alternate reality. Each bullet hitting the walls of this neighborhood a dagger to my soul for those people who cannot take a break. Whilst my heart is breaking and my soul is aching for those people, those lost and hurting people, those loved and precious people, my mind is busy worrying for the other people. My brothers and sisters, my dear friends, my mind is worrying if they are ok, if they are safe. I wonder if their hearts and minds are guarded and I plead with my father to guard them with peace, for I know the wounds this day will create in their hearts and minds will be far greater and far more difficult to heal than the bleeding lacerations and the missing limbs. I cry out for safety and protection, that there may be no more bloodshed. That this year, the year of 2012 will be free from death; but beyond that and above that I cry, and I plead, and I beg for peace in hearts and minds.
Sleep eludes me this night for though the bullets are far away from my bed, they are ever so close to my heart. Though the rockets exploding are not shaking my house and crumbling my mud walls, they are rocking my soul and they are tearing down my barriers.
My heart is aching causing my eyes to rain, my soul is stirred causing my lips to cry out, and my mind is racing causing my finger to keep clicking refresh. Eyes scanning facebook and twitter feeds, reading news pages, ears listening to reporters. And it’s all happening within me, and I wish I could be standing there with them. I wish I could be laying side by side with those precious friends, I wish I could be holding their hands and living this nightmare with them.
That’s when I know, when my desire to be there is greater than to be safe and watching through a screen, then I know that those missing pieces of my heart have been left there. Those slivers that have left cracks I cannot fill, and left this heart so fragile, are over there. And I wonder, I wonder if traveling those many miles, if breathing in that thick, diseased dust, if stepping over those open sewers, if being back in that hellish-heaven-on-earth, will fix my heart? If I can find those broken shards, could I scoop them back up? could I fit them together again? could I piece this crumbled heap of heart in my hands back together again?
Calm resumes. The fighting has stopped in that city, and so too the battle within me has been subdued. I know I cannot travel to find the splinters of my heart, and I know even if I tried, I would never be able to take them with me, they will always stay there. I know I could never make this crumbled mound of flesh into anything resembling a heart. But I know my saviour, and I know he makes beauty out of ashes, and I know he has the oil of joy which enables my mourning to turn into dancing. So I place the soot in the sky over that city and the ashes on its streets into his hands. I let my ground down heart slip through my fingers out of my grasp into his palms, and I ask him to mix it with his love, and with this oil of joy, I ask him and I vulnerably and frailly trust him to turn these ugly messes into beauty.
I was walking one of my usual walks, across the fields, through the woods, down the paths, and around the lanes. The beauty around never stops amazing me, and as I heard the birds singing in the trees, and watched the sheep munching on the grass I stopped for a moment to look around me. I felt the sunshine, breathed in the clean country air, and took in the rolling hills with their farm animals and wildlife, and the quintessential English buildings on the horizon. As I paused to enjoy this moment a question a friend once asked came back to me:
“Why would you give this up? Why would you trade this for there?”
I was one of the first to arrive. I sat and watched as people after me arrived, some close friends, some old friends, some acquaintances not seen for months, others new faces. I watched as they hugged, and welcomed each other, I noted the reactions to me being back. As I sat and observed, only partaking in the interactions around me when it was demanded of me, I noticed the hunched shoulders burdened with stress, the creased faces crafted by weariness, the neediness in the hugs exchanged, and the sighs speaking of the struggles within.
I observed as we worshipped, a variety of reactions. Some unable to bring themselves to sing such words. Others declaring the truth with such confidence. Yet others just reaching out for hope, for endurance, for a renewal of joy, for a glimpse of their Saviour in glory, CHOOSING to worship, to believe, to give thanks in their brokenness and the brokenness which surrounds in this place, each and every moment.
We shared our lowlights and our highlights of 2011. That was when the pain shone through the most. A small few among us found it hard to think of a lowlight, many could think of several painful points. And many simply confessed that 2011 just felt light one lowlight after another, like a constant struggle. And the vast majority of our lowlights revolved around this place, around the affects, and the consequences of living here. The pain, the hurt, the struggles, the sacrifices, were all laid bare. The raw wounds that this place had afflicted were on display.
Next we all picked a Bible verse out of a hat and had to share for 2 minutes on it. How it spoke to us, and how it applies to our situations here. That is when God shone through. All these people, my friends, my brothers and sisters, who had just exposed their cuts and sores, were now speaking of how much bigger God was. They CHOSE. They spoke of hope, and joy, and peace, of how God is the source of such things, and how they can never run out. They spoke of wisdom and guidance, of the need to continue to love and forgive, to love and forgive…. to love and forgive, after all the scars each one had from this place. They spoke of God’s goodness, of his ability to do great and wonderful things, of his faithfulness…. after the account of the years we had had.
A room full of broken people, CHOOSING to hold on, to have faith, to press in, to obey, and to continue. CHOOSING to trust, to praise, to give thanks, to love, and to know that He is faithful. And there, in that act of worship and sacrifice, was so much beauty. The beauty of a group of broken people declaring that God is bigger than their pain and despair.