Breaking Hearts

Over 12 years ago now, I was in the midst of the ending of a 15 year marriage.  We were living in Blind River and as the marriage ended it became clear that the congregation I was serving was dividing, kind of my side / his side scenario – so I moved.  My three teenage sons and I crossed Lake Huron and moved to a small town in Bruce County.  We began again, and for the first little while as we were busy transitioning into our new home and community things seemed fine.  Then Christmas came and for the first time as a divided family, the boys spent time both with me and their father separately.  After the boys left the house I realized that I was alone – the house which normally filled up with the noise and clatter of daily living was quiet and still and silent.  My first reaction was to escape the void and I hopped in my car and went to Owen Sound and went to the first movie they had playing at the theatre.  It was a romantic comedy with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson called “Somethings Gotta Give”  I thought it would be a safe choice and I could spend a couple of hours at least wrapped up in another world so that I would not have to think about my own world.  Well, in hindsight, maybe it was not such a good idea – for in the midst of the movie, just as you begin to like the characters and see opportunities for them to be in a wonderful relationship – the other shoe drops and the Jack Nicolson character leaves the Diane Keaton character just after she has fallen completely in love with him.  She is a writer and so to work through her pain she writes a play – so here she is, sitting in her beach house in front of a computer, typing away – and then crying – not silent tears running down her face crying – no – big huge weeping and wailing – and the audience loves it – they are laughing so much it is hard to hear the dialogue and every time she starts to sob and sob and sob the audience laughs and laughs and laughs – and I sit there and sob along with her.  It was there in that darkened theatre that I realized that my heart was broken – as I sobbed along with Diane crying for my broken marriage and the sorrow and regret that come with divorce.  Where was God now?

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Every morning during the week my heart breaks.  Erica, my two and a half year old’s first morning sentence  usually is – they closed the daycare today.  She does not want to go, and no matter how much Rob and I talk up the daycare – no matter how we try to divert her attention with breakfast and getting dressed and welcoming the day – when the time comes for her to get on her coat and boots – she often runs the other way and says:  “stay home with Daddy” – and as we catch her and carry her to the car it is often in the midst of screams and protests and struggles to get her in the car seat and buckled in.  The daycare is another moment of protest where she begins to cry as she walks into room, clinging to my legs clambering to get up, and crying – so as I wretch her from my arms and hand her to the day care provider I am normally serenaded with “mommy don’t leave me”.  And even though I am assured that she only cries for a few minutes, and even though whenever we pick her up she is having a good time and fully engaged in the daycare activities – even though – every time I leave her it breaks my heart as I walk down the hall listening to my daughter cry.  Where is God now?

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Our hearts break

  • When someone we love more than our self gets sick, or dies or leaves us or betrays us – betrayal by a trusted loved one wounds deep.
  • Our hearts break when our children are hurting, or have made poor choices, or get caught up in activities that scare us – imagine being the parents of a child who leaves to go and fight with ISIS.
  • Our hearts break when something we have depended on be it our work, our government, or our church let us down, when something we rely on that has been an anchor for us suddenly or gradually causes us to drift – we become disillusioned.
  • Our hearts break when life does not meet our expectations – I bet you each of us have had this moment in our lives at one time or another – when what we thought our lives was about was not when everything became hard and nothing was easy.
  • Our hearts break when we are faced with a chronic painful illness or a cancer diagnosis or the deep dark hole of depression when it feels like our own body or our own mind has betrayed us.
  • So anytime we feel like the pins have been knocked out from beneath us and there is no firm footing to be found – then my friends our hearts break and life as we know it changes – and we question,
    • how come this is happening to me?
    • what did I do to deserve this?
    • where is God now?

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. 

The people of Jeremiah’s time know only too well the pain of a broken heart – they are broken hearted over the loss of their country, their culture, their community and their church.  They have been conquered by the Babylonians and life as they once knew it has ceased to be – their temple – the centre piece of their culture and community has been knocked over razed to the ground.  Their king has been led away in chains – and where is God now?

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

When David was king of the Land of Judah and Israel and most people felt like it  and everything was good and all was going well and God was present and pleased– one day as David surveyed his kingdom from the top of his castle – he spied a woman on the next roof having a bath – and instead of turning away and giving her privacy he watched and lusted and trampled over every marriage vow he had made with is queen and she had made with her husband – Burak – the general in David’s army – where was God now?

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew her
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah[1]

And next thing you know David began to plot about how to make this wrong right – and with some sort of twisted logic and egocentric thinking David sent his General out to fight the battle insisting that the General be at the head of the army – and as anyone could have predicted the General was killed in  battle and now Bathsheba, the roof bather – General Baruk’s wife was free to be with King David.  Where was God now?

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. 

One day Nathan, the King’s Prophet seeks an audience with David and while in the throne room Nathan tells this story:

Once there was a man who had one sheep that he loved dearly, he cared for it faithfully and even let it sleep in the house with his children.  Next door to this man lives a wealthier man who had many sheep.  One day the wealthier man had a visitor and planned a great feast in order to honour his visitor.  He sent his servants next door to the poorer man and demanded his sheep, which he slaughtered and fed to the guest. 

As King David listened to the story he became enraged and when Nathan finished talking he demanded that the wealthier man restore the sheep to the poorer man – and Nathan said – “you are that man” and David heard the truth of his words – and he withdrew and he began to pray and this is what he prayed –

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. 

Psalm 51 is David’s prayer set into these circumstances of broken hearts and broken trust – of broken people and a God that was there even in brokenness.  God was there offering hope to the David and Bathsheba and all the broken people. God offers promise and presence and faithfulness to the people.  God offering yet another covenant promise into our broken lives, into our broken hearts.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. 

God forgives, and restores and God has written on our hearts – reminding us that we are God’s people – no matter what we do, no matter what situation we are living in – no matter how broken our hearts are:  God is there, God has written into our hearts.  This is the new covenant – that we will be God’s people and God will be our God, in live and death, in brokenness and fear – God is with us – we are never alone….Thanks be to God – Amen.

[1] Lenard Cohen:  “Hallelujah” http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/leonardcohen/hallelujah.html

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