Sometimes we are “cracked wide open” by life; by the experiences we have; by the suffering that happens to come our way. We know this is part of life. We know that God doesn’t somehow single us out for pain or loss. It’s just the way the world works. Some of it is the result of the choices, good and bad, that we make. Some of it just IS.
We’re cracked open in different ways. Sometimes it’s the loss of a relationship. Sometimes it’s the loss of a dream—a dream of who you thought you’d be and what you thought you’d do. Sometimes an illness is what breaks us open or the experience of cancer and treatments or an accident that changes everything.
Whatever the cause, we often feel defenseless. We are taken down to the most elemental level. We are stripped bare. These moments focus us on what’s essential in our lives. They show us what—and who—matters most.
And this is why there is such a deep spiritual dimension to having our hearts opened—or even broken. An open heart is a sign of our willingness to be vulnerable. It’s an indication that you are not withholding a single part of you. It’s an announcement that you are “all in.” It’s like saying to God, “I give my whole self to you.” And that’s when God can really get to work. That’s when God can lead and shape and work with us.
So if you feel brokenhearted sometimes or if you feel like life has laid bare your heart, take comfort in the fact that God is with us as much in our vulnerability as in our strength. God is with us as much in our pain as in our joy. God enters our open, sometimes broken hearts.
There are books of the bible that I turn to more often than others. Like everyone, I have my “canon within the canon,” so to speak. I love the gospels, but probably favor Luke for its insistence on Jesus’ preferential option for the least of these, for those on the margins. I also look to Romans for a theology of grace and to Philippians, where Paul exhorts a Christian community in Greece to encourage one another, to pray for one another, and to rejoice together. I have to say,I DON’T generally turn to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible book of Deuteronomy. I’ve always thought of the book as a book of laws. So somehow through the years, I’ve missed this gem of a text which was our scripture reading for Sunday:
7 If there is among you anyone in need,
a member of your community in any of your towns
within the land that the Lord your God is giving you,
do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted
towards your needy neighbor.
8You should rather open your hand,
willingly lending enough to meet the need,
whatever it may be. 9Be careful that you do not
entertain a mean thought, thinking,
‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near’,
and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility
and give nothing;
your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you,
and you would incur guilt.
10Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so,
for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.
11Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth,
I therefore command you,
‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’
Open Our Ears
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear
to listen to those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
And I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.”
Ancient Greek philosophy notes that we have two ears and one mouth—so that we can listen twice as much as we speak! That’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn . . . . . That’s why this week’s theme speaks to me. The verse above talks about the value of words; of being able to “sustain the weary with a word.” But it also reminds us that God wakens not only our mouths for speaking, but our ears for listening.
Jesus also reminds us that sometimes we don’t listen OR we listen but don’t understand. Opening our ears isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but it’s one of the ways God wants us to be open. It’s one of the ways God opens us.
How will you listen for God this week? How will you open your ears to hear the good news of the grace of God? To hear the stories of others in need? To listen to the feelings behind the words of those you love?