On Wednesday mornings, I co-lead a woman’s bible study group. It’s something I would have never seen myself doing a few years ago. It’s been an amazing blessing in my life that has opened me up to so many things including the gift of a broken heart.
I witnessed a beautiful thing the other day. I watched woman’s heartbreak. You might wonder why someone else’s pain was such a beautiful thing for me to witness. I don’t know if 6 years ago I would have recognized it for what it was. I might have said comforting things to here and then later rolled my eyes about it, I might have even talked about it later to someone else in a flippant way. I know not, nice,right? How many times do we do that? Listen to someone’s pain patiently, with a head nod,but not really with our heart? Not really heard what is being said?
I was raised Catholic, wandered away in my teens and twenties, kind of meandered slightly back after I had kids and then actually became an atheist for a few years, before I found something new and amazing. I know, pretty crazy, right? If you had told me that a few years ago I would have laughed in your face. We were those people who would roll our eyes at the “churchy people.”
How does someone go from Catholic to Atheist and back to faith?
I remember the day it happened. My grandmother had just died at age 98. She had lived a long life. She was raised on a tenant farm in poverty during the depression. Her parents never really made a successful go of the farm, but struggled their entire lives. After she married later, she moved to the burbs and started her own suburban farm on a 1/3 acre. She grew a love of gardening and the land in my mother and myself. But the odd thing about her, was for a woman who grew up on the farm and saw the miracle of life and the devastation of death all of the time, she was agnostic. She dind’t really believe in anything. After living an entire life, watching her husband die of cancer, beating kidney cancer herself at 85, she didn’t really buy into the fact there was a hereafter. She just thought that we were like flowers, once we bloomed and grew, when the frost came, that was it, we were back in the ground.
The day she died, it puzzled me, and I wondered how a woman with all of those years behind her could think something like that, and the science part of my brain took over and I thought, “Maybe she’s right? How do we really know?” I remember it so clearly. I was driving in my car, and suddenly the sky opened up ahead of me in its blueness and vastness, and it felt… empty. And I felt so small, and so alone, and so sad. And empty…..
Three years past. And things for us at home were hard and broken. Something in our lives felt like it was missing something, but I would never quite put my thumb on it. Other people I knew who had faith in their life, seemed like they had something there, like there was something more. And I wondered if there was something more. What was I missing? Our life at that time was very dark and chaotic. Nothing was going well, and we seemed to be caught in this really hard cycle of never getting our head above any kind of water at all.
I had been thinking about going to church for a while, but was never quite ready to pull the plug. Something was always holding me back. One Saturday, hubby was was working; I bit the bullet,packed up the kids for an evening service, and went. They were all really little, and I was half prepared to leave if they started to lose it.
I sat in service and something felt different. The kid’s were actually good, and it was a run of the mill service. But, it was when I went up to take communion and knelt at the rail it happened. I knelt, and I felt love wash over me. I felt the flat, dry disk of wafer placed in my hand, and at that moment the thought that came into my head was “Where have you been?”
Tears came to my eyes and my heart broke at that moment. I had been gone so long and I had been so sorry I had been away for so long, I almost felt ashamed. I knew at that moment I was supposed to be there, and it was like someone had lifted the darkness. I was changed. I was willing to open my heart just a crack and God pushed it open the rest of the way.
That night I got home and the phone were ringing. It was hubby at work.
“Where were you? I tried to call and you didn’t answer!”
Live every other married couple,we were under constant stress and seemed to constantly snipe and bicker at each other, I wans;t sure how this was going to be recieved.
I wasn’t sure what he was going to say, so I just said it in a reserved way, waiting for the silent on the other end of the phone eye roll.
“Well, I took the kids to church.”
The other end was completely silent and to be honest, I had been waiting to be slightly teased about it. Not that he would ever do that, but in my head I was waiting for a repercussion.
After a very pregnant pause he quietly said. “I was thinking about going to church too. Funny. How was that?”
It was something we had never talked about. Church never even came up in our conversations except to talk about those “Bible bashers.”
After that, things changed. There was still no easy road, and we still struggled and have had some major things happen to us, we still had doubts, and situations that could have broken us, but somehow they have seemed easier, like we had this thing bigger than ourselves behind us, pushing our heads about the deep and dark water. And life was not magically perfect, nor is it now,it has still been more of a rocky uphill climb, really rocky, but after each section of mountain we climb, I can look back and see how we were carried through, and we’ve come out higher.
This woman who I spoken with, I saw what was behind the pain.
The thing is, her tears weren’t over something that had happened to her, or even a close friend or relative. They were for children who were forgotten, children who were possibly unloved, and were flying under the radar in a broken system in a broken world. Her heart broke for what breaks God’s heart. It was beautiful to see that part of God here on Earth, right in front of me.
It made my heartache, and made me realize how many times we close off and turn our eyes away from those little things that could make a big difference, we are so easy to dismiss and listen with closed ears. Simple things that might be as little as paying it forward at Starbucks, or lending that extra ear with true intent when someone has the gift of a broken heart. God is in all of those things. It doesn’t have to be a big grand gesture to count either. We just need to be open and willing to be put back together,be willing to come back to where God resides. and understand how the emptiness of the tomb means that the emptiness doesn’t have to be there inside of us. It has been amazing to me how I’ve come full circle and realized science and faith can co-exist. Dinosaurs can be talked about in the same breath as the Ark. It doesn’t have to be one with out the other, and how beautiful this world is that they stand together with art, music,accounting, grocery store checking,parenting, addiction,computer programming, and struggling though every day just living, trying to keep your head above water.
Because sometimes a broken heart is a beautiful gift.