Broken Hearts, Open Minds
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is open wide to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return – I speak as to children – open wide your hearts also. –2 Corinthians 6:11-13
When I was in my early teens, I was enamored with a girl who lived down the street. We started “dating,” which meant I was allowed to come over and sit with her on her front porch once or twice a week. We could also walk a short distance down the street, as long as we remained in view of her mother’s front window. I was devastated when she broke up with me. She gave me my first broken heart.
In his book A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer considers broken hearts. He writes, “There are at least two ways to understand what it means to have our hearts broken. One is to imagine the heart broken into shards and scattered about. The other is to imagine the heart broken open into a new capacity – a process that is not without pain but one that many of us would welcome. As I stand in the tragic gap between reality and possibility, this small, tight fist of a thing called my heart can break open into greater capacity to hold more of my own and the world’s suffering and joy, despair and hope.”
Palmer’s latter definition is reminiscent of the Christian concept of being born again. The initial birth process is difficult. There is no reason to believe being born again will be easy, either. Letting go of beliefs we have long held to, once we discover them to be no longer helpful, is not easy. We must let go of what is known as we reach for something unknown – unknown, yes, but full of possibilities.
Brokenness is a central theme in Christianity. Sometimes our old ways of thinking need to be broken open in order to allow new concepts and ideas to reshape us into more useful vessels for the Spirit. We can be broken voluntarily, meaning we willingly offer ourselves to be broken. More often, at least for me, we are broken by unforeseen circumstances, often of our own making. Our lives are sailing along smoothly, and we feel like we are in control and then, BAM! Something happens that rocks our world and breaks us in such a way that we cannot reassemble our life back the way it was. We find ourselves in a forced career change, a loved one leaves us, or a medical condition inspires a reevaluation of our priorities. Rebirth is not easy and is not without pain, but is ultimately necessary and good. Palmer refers to “the tragic gap between reality and possibility.” If we are to move beyond today’s reality and approach tomorrow’s possibility, we must be willing to let go of yesterday. We should not always be in such a rush to reassemble our broken hearts. And perhaps our hearts should be reassembled with something less adhesive than super glue, leaving them more easily rebroken. A closed heart leads to a closed mind, and a closed mind leads to a small and closed life.
Come home to church this Sunday. Come and be broken with others.