O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
My youngest child was four months old when life started to unravel. The prescription from the dentist that made my stomach hurt- but made my husband float away- turned into the loss of jobs, homes, security, marriage, and a hot five and half year burn. There were times I thought I could not lift my head another day- and truthfully, there were days I didn’t. Looking at the ground made it easier to not acknowledge anything beyond my breathing. In and out. Keep going. If I don’t look up, I won’t falter.
One perceived need after another fell away, and I wondered how long one could free-fall before your breath stopped catching, your eyes stopped tearing against the bitter wind, and falling became normal. There were tender hands and mercies reaching out as I tumbled down, but they were powerless to stop the laws of physics and the cost of agency; their cool hands on my fevered brow offered brief human comfort and let me know I was not alone, even in their helplessness to stop the avalanche of life.
Scriptures and platitudes seemed to mock— no, a traveling husband is not the same as a single mother. Sometimes you are given more than you can bear, and you do fall. Not everything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger- sometimes things just hurt like hell for no reason. You get used to the dark, to the howling wind, to hard sharp edges that cut and tear as you tumble by, wondering in desperation where God went…
That’s the most terrifying part. The utter and abject desolation of feeling abandoned by God. Lost. Forgotten. Forsaken. In the prolonged absence of light, with nothing to reflect back who you might be, you forget your own edges and question where the darkness ends and you begin. This is the place where your heart cleaves, the contents within spill into the deep darkness, you balk in terror at what seems like the end of the world. But the heart has to break for what’s within to grow… to push out of the darkness, where all seeds sprout, and force its way up, through some miracle, towards the light.
In that moment, one becomes fully human. We embody the fallen, and in some small measure, we might finally, in our own brokenness, understand the grace offered by Christ in his descending beneath all things. The contents of your shattered heart are the fertile loam that feeds the life as it pushes up, finally bursting into the light.
Perhaps there are other ways, gentler and kinder, to learn these lessons. Perhaps there is a different story for each of us written in the book of life. The single thing of which I am now certain is that the contents of our hewn, split, shattered, broken hearts— however they be torn asunder— is required for the seeds within us to find that light. Nothing less will do. Nothing more is asked. It’s only everything.