My staff and I are discussing a message we recently listened to focusing on the book of Nehemiah. Before you groan “Old Testament,” let me say, I share your fear of/boredom with/whatever you think of the OT. I should say, I have shared it, and to some degree, still do. No matter how much I read it, Numbers will still be boring. Important perhaps, but boring.
And I’m afraid of the OT. I don’t get it. So I’ve carried on these 40+ years not reading much of it unless there was an academic exercise surrounding it. But this sermon and this book have drawn me in.
Nehemiah was a cup-bearer, sort of the secret service agent of 450 BC Persia, who kept King Artaxerxes safe by making sure he didn’t consume poison in his food or drink. For the most part, probably a boring job, but a potentially fatal one. And a very trusted position in that time. But he asked for a leave of absence (a long one) from his job when he heard of the Jewish remnant in great trouble and the walls surrounding the temple in ruins. Indeed, he wept for three days. It broke his heart.
My staff and I have been asking ourselves, “What breaks our heart?” I found this hard to answer at first. I wanted to take the easy way out and simply provide answer that is close to home and therefore requires little additional effort on my part. So, in other words, I wanted to be lazy. But then I really struggled. What breaks my heart? Human trafficking? Vulnerable immigrants? Children? Special needs children? Yes, I have a heart for all of these. But what causes me to truly be heart-broken? I was stumped for a few days.
And then, revealing as He always does to me in subtle yet shockingly meaningful ways, a co-worker asked me a simple question in an email, and I responded, “My heart is for the local church.” As I thought of that, I realized that I really had a broken heart for broken churches. Churches that don’t reach out but only dwell within the four walls of their building. Churches that proclaim “All Are Welcome” but act quite differently. Churches that are not empowered to think beyond their leaking roof and their insular, keep ’em happy programming built by and for its consumers, the members.
That’s what breaks my heart.
It’s good to have answer to the question. Now, what do we do once we have an answer?
I need to fashion how I work (at an INGO that’s mission is to empower the local church), worship (at a church that gets this right most of the time and when it doesn’t, moves to make changes), and live (in a community that has many churches but not enough reaching outside of its walls) to reflect that passion.
It needs to be a daily choice. It’s a hard daily choice. I’m busy. I have to pay a mortgage and college tuition and be a mom and a wife. I need downtime. But life without a purpose is pretty much not life to me.
In other words, what is the alternative to acting in accord with my broken heart? The alternative is not to be contemplated. It’s that scary and empty.
What breaks your heart?