I was excited for worship. Two hours of praise and prayer on a Friday night felt special and out-of-the-norm.
Chris was on stage, the girls were with friends, and I was going to have two hours to celebrate and give thanks. I listened to a little Kesha on the way to church, so full of energy I couldn’t sit still. If you notice, I’m skipping right over the irony of listening to Kesha on the way to church. Moving on.
I sat down with friends from our small group, the lights lowered, and the service began.
And then something broke open inside of me.
At first, I was confused. I was just here to give some thanks, to bring praise and worship to a God who has done some unbelievably kind and generous and faithful things for our family the past six months.
But instead I just got really sad.
The song played and I sang, but I couldn’t stop the tears. What’s going on here?
A few songs in, I was grateful for the loud music and dark room, because I was not just teary-eyed but crying. I couldn’t sing anymore. I was concentrating too hard on keeping something inside that desperately wanted to come out.
I stood there listening to the people around me singing. My chest hurt. I could feel the pressure, the discomfort.
This is what a broken heart feels like, I heard in my head.
This is what a broken heart feels like.
And for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t try to rationalize it away. I didn’t argue with what my head was telling me. I didn’t try to justify any action or feeling or avoidance.
I just listened.
And what I heard, what I felt, what I knew was that my heart was broken.
You’ve been walking around with a broken heart. Pay attention. I heard it clearly and tenderly from the God I was trying to worship.
This is what a broken heart feels like.
It was like suddenly my head and my heart both knew it–not just my heart which I had been ignoring–and I felt all the sadness, all the loneliness, all the pain that went with a broken heart. A broken heart I didn’t know I had.
This is what a broken heart feels like?
I’m not sure what took me so long. Why it took me a few years to admit what happened broke my heart. I associate a broken heart with romantic love, with my husband, or with my love for my kids.
But now? With this? This broke my heart too?
“Are you okay?” my friend whispered in between songs.
“Yeah,” I said, too stunned and unsure to say anything else.
“I’m a mess,” she said with a little laugh as she wiped tears from her face.
Me too, I thought, but I don’t even have the words yet to explain how messy.
The rest of the two-hour service was sitting with my broken heart. If it’s broken, is this what loneliness feels like? If it’s broken, is this why my brain keeps attacking it? If it’s broken, is this what that quiet hum is? The one that wakes me in the middle of the night?
God, I’m so tired of carrying this broken heart.
I didn’t know that’s what it was.
It feels silly to say it to God. It feels silly to say it to you. I was walking around with a broken heart, talking to people, acting a certain way, believing some lies because I didn’t know my heart was broken.
The realization felt like a cracking open, like a long, deep breath I didn’t know I wasn’t taking before.
Instead of hurting more, like I assumed, it felt like I was finally able to relax. I wasn’t aware I was running from my broken heart, but once I stopped and paid attention to it, it felt like sweet relief.
They say the truth shall set you free. I didn’t even realize I was ignoring it. But when I finally looked it square in the eyes, it didn’t hurt, it didn’t kill me, it was safety and freedom and relief.
It made sense. This is what a broken heart feels like.
Now when it asks for attention, I can be gentle with it.
I can say hi.
Acknowledge the hurt.
Say it’s okay to be here.
A broken heart means it mattered.
It is okay that it mattered.
It’s not weakness to say you loved.
Sad is okay.
It’s been a few weeks since I noticed my broken heart. I’d been carrying it around for a few years, not sure what it was. I didn’t recognize a broken heart so I didn’t know how to care for it.
I know now.
And it feels a little less broken than it did that night in the pew surrounded by people singing.
If my friend was here right now and she asked me if I was okay, here’s what I would whisper:
I am definitely not okay. I lost something important. Something I always carried along with me, something I didn’t realize could leave. I think I’ve been walking with a limp ever since. I didn’t even notice the limp. I just got used to the pain, just thought this is what life is now.
I have a broken heart, and I’m going to start paying attention to it.
And my friend would probably agree. Because she’s a mess too, she’s just a little better at saying it out loud.
I bless God every chance I get;
my lungs expand with his praise.
I live and breathe God;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:
Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.
God met me more than halfway,
he freed me from my anxious fears.
Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
Never hide your feelings from him.
When I was desperate, I called out,
and God got me out of a tight spot.
God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.
Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.
Worship God if you want the best;
worship opens doors to all his goodness.
Young lions on the prowl get hungry,
but God-seekers are full of God.
Come, children, listen closely;
I’ll give you a lesson in God worship.
Who out there has a lust for life?
Can’t wait each day to come upon beauty?
Guard your tongue from profanity,
and no more lying through your teeth.
Turn your back on sin; do something good.
Embrace peace—don’t let it get away!
God keeps an eye on his friends,
his ears pick up every moan and groan.
God won’t put up with rebels;
he’ll cull them from the pack.
Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,
ready to rescue you.
If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.
Disciples so often get into trouble;
still, God is there every time.
He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone;
not even a finger gets broken.
The wicked commit slow suicide;
they waste their lives hating the good.
God pays for each slave’s freedom;
no one who runs to him loses out.
-Psalm 34, The Message version