Monday, July 2, 2012

The Sacrament of the Broken Heart

We all know God is close to the broken hearted, it is proclaimed in the Psalms and I have to say it has been true in my life. It is one privilege that offsets the pain for the most part. The deal is this, if you have lost loved ones to dysfunctional religious groups, the point is that the pain you feel you will never get over. I have been told to move on and to get on with life by those who see only from a perspective that is stunted at best and perverted at worst. First of all, I do not think that one can truly understand the loss of loved ones to a DRG unless they have either gone through it themselves or are close to someone who has. Secondly, there are those within the DRG that have turned away from loved ones because they chose to no longer be a part of the group - this was either done to them or their choice but the result is the same - separation. That is why to some I say that their perspective is stunted - they do not have any point of reference or perverted - they have a perspective but it is not in the spirit of Christ at all, it is Judaic.

The Seeking God versus the Monster

The Judaic perspective of God is I believe very akin to the picture of God in a dysfunctional religious group. If you study the god of the Pharisee, they see a God who is angry at the sin of the world and their rejection of Him in their disobedience to His Law. This god has withdrawn his holy self from the world and is waiting for the sinner to repent and then will take action. The question here is: 'Is this the God of the Bible?' In biblical theology - which includes the historical record, it is a 'stretch' to define God in such a truncated fashion. How did the Pharisee arrive at such a viewpoint? It is in the fact that they had their own perspective on God that obviously given Jesus reaction to them was NOT the God of the Bible. If Jesus is truly a reflection of the Father and in fact is as the gospel of John refers to Christ as He has explained Him (God - the Father). So, if we want to understand the God of the Bible, we need look no further than Christ. To understand that Jesus is the 'explanation' of God of Himself to the world, then in Jesus' life we can see the following: God is a seeker. He seeks fellowship with humanity and has paid a tremendous price in the life of His son to do so. In His earthly ministry, He exemplified true holiness is not obedience to tradition or even the Law as it were (even though He totally fulfilled it). He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He does not just interpret the law but due to His divinity He explains it and at times supercedes the Law (these are the expressions in His teachings when he quotes the Law but adds 'but I say...'). No, Jesus is not a withdrawn and sequestered god of the dysfunctional group seeking retribution on all flesh and waiting for the day of destruction of all that opposes Him. He is one who invites the world's sinners to repent and receive the gift of the Kingdom (see Peter's echo of this in his speech in Acts 2).

It is true that there is nothing new under the sun, and in fact the dysfunctional religious group that sequesters themselves from an unholy world in the name of the Kingdom is not consistent with the person nor the message of Jesus. What we have here is the modern-day Pharisee and that is all.

God is all about love, redemption and reconciliation. Those that reflect these three actions are closer to the spirit of the Kingdom than even they might realize. This does not mean that they wink at sinful acts but that they understand that man is fallen and will serve imperfectly. There is little doubt that the heart of God aches for the lost and the fallen. What is the sacrament of the Broken Heart? It is loving someone even though that person does not respond to that love and in essence rejects it because that person is not in compliance with their perspective. Does God know this pain? Yes and if you suffer rejection because of you no longer being with a group, you know the pain too.

So What Do We Do?

Well I wish I had some nugget of scripture that could be invoked and miraculously heal the scars and pain but friend there simply isn't one. If there were, then the character of a God who is defined as Love would be truncated into nothing more than a caricature of Himself - one would have a god no better than the DRG they left.

We have the privilege of taking part in the Sacrament of the Broken Heart. We have the privilege of loving unconditionally those who now reject us because of our non-compliance to their 'gospel'. It is part of the deal. We have to learn to accept that our heart will be broken and will remain so as long as we live, it is the price of love and may I say it, the sweetest aroma of the sacrament. We must understand that to love is to risk all, even sanity. It is to continue to put a light in the window for the ones who left in such an angry huff. To hope all things and endure all things.

A Personal Story

My wife and I were cleaning out our basement with the intent of getting our house ready to sell. It was full of things we had long forgotten were there. I took a load of junk to the dump and another to a local ministry's thrift store. In the midst of that process, I ran across some things I had not seen in I would say at least a decade maybe more. Buried under piles and boxes there was an innocuous little plastic bag stuffed to the brim and bulging. My first thought was to throw it out and keep going but something made me stop and I picked it up again and looked a little closer. When I saw what was on top I decided to call my wife down to look at what I had found. She reluctantly came down and started to unpack the bulging package. The first thing that she pulled out was a pink, white and blue crocheted blanket. We used it when the kids were babies. That was hard enough but then she pulled out another item and completely broke down. Right there in the musty basement was the sacrament of the broken heart. What was the item? It was my son's toddler outfit. A little tan and brown plaid pair of shorts with shoulder still smelled like him. that was my wife's cry 'I can still smell him...I can still smell him...'

In that basement as I held her body collapsing under the weight, I looked up and uttered a flash of anger to the ceiling 'I hope you see this...' I say it here because it is the truth. I did not understand and the dark thoughts of my own failures in the eyes of my children swallowed me for an afternoon and the rest of that night. In the morning I went to church and there was a song they played I am sure was just for me. I did not know where to go with the pain and the weight of it was crushing to the altar I went. I prayed over the picture of all my children and grandchildren that we had placed on that altar over two years ago and let the burden go. I let it go and gave them back to God for His keeping.

That too is the sacrament of a broken heart....I can still smell him.

What is the epilogue of this personal story? That bulging package was lovingly stored for a better day.