Our world is full of hatred and meanness. Full of it. We are reminded of it every morning, afternoon, evening and night by the talking heads on our televisions… by the authors of our newspapers (does anyone still read those btw?)… by the news outlets on our computers. It seems we cannot get enough bad news.
Honestly – I find myself numb to it sometimes. That’s a terrible confession. How in the world can I hear a news report about a tragedy in some far off place and shrug my shoulders and flip the channel to a rerun of Seinfeld and never blink an eye? Just typing that out makes me feel so ashamed… Am I really that callous of a person that I can dismiss a story about real life people – moms, dads, sons, daughters – suffering? I mean, if I am a follower of Jesus and I claim to live with Him – shouldn’t these stories, these hundreds and thousands of stories break my heart every single time I hear them? Shouldn’t I kneel down and pray the moment I hear any of them? Am I so dead inside that I can just change the channel and laugh about Kramer and Jerry fighting over a Junior Mint?!? Not dead… just desensitized sometimes.
It’s a dangerous thing. Desensitization. (My biggest word to date on this website!) It’s dangerous because it happens slowly over time and we don’t even realize it is happening. Our brains have a great innate ability to protect us… it’s hard wired in and it doesn’t want us to experience pain… ever. You place your hand on a hot stove and your brain says – move your hand. Not only does it keep you from getting a much worse burn, it helps you be more careful in the future every time you are around a stove. The examples are limitless of how our brains get us out of, and help us avoid all together, trouble and pain of all kinds. The problem is that our brains sort of become like a crazily over protective parent… One that worries about every possible scenario that could cause us trouble or pain. You know one of those parents. I guarantee everyone that reads this knows at least one parent like that. No matter what activity you think about for your kids to do together – that other parent has some worry about what could happen. “Let’s have our kids have a cotton ball fight!” … “Oh no, not that… What if they accidentally inhaled one of the cotton balls or it hit one of them in the eye or heaven forbid they decide to replace the cotton balls with marbles and then they replace the marbles with knives?!?! No no no no no no…. It’s too dangerous.” (BTW – if you are that parent – I understand… I love my 2 kids more than life itself… but if you spend less time worrying and more time enjoying – life will be sweeter and sweeter… but I digress…)
Our brains do good things for us when it comes to hot stoves and physical pain. It is a really bad thing though when it comes to our brain wanting to protect us from the emotional pain of a broken heart. Is a broken heart fun? Heck no, it isn’t. Is it good for us? Unfortunately (you say), yes it is. Here’s why. When we allow our hearts to break – we gain sympathy for others – and most importantly empathy. That’s the most important part of experiencing a broken heart… You can’t feel for someone else if you can’t even feel for yourself.
A prayer that I asked our church to begin praying about a year and half ago is this: Pray for God to stretch you. Pray for Him to break your heart for what breaks His. Pray for Him to heal what is broken… including our own hearts. It’s a tough and dangerous prayer just so you know because He will do all three and the first two can be very painful…
I heard from a family yesterday about their fear and worry and heartbreak for their child who is being bullied in school. I read what the dad wrote to me and I just started crying and feeling a hurt that my brain desperately wanted to end. That hurt pounds in my chest now as I write this… Thinking about the fear their child feels waking up and realizing it’s a school day… the dread of getting on the bus… the sorrow walking into that school building… My brain can not stand to think about it honestly. It screams at me to turn on a Seinfeld episode and focus there to make the pain stop. Instead I am focusing on that pain and allowing it to be my reminder to pray… to pray for them as a family… to pray for their child who is so hurt … to pray for those kids who are bullying, praying that someone speaks truth to them in a way they will hear and respect, praying that they are not experiencing bullying themselves from other kids or even from their own families… to love them… to offer whatever help I can…
Will you let something break your heart or will you let your mind protect you.
Thank God my heart hurts… Thank God too… that He can heal it. Psalm 147:3
Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.