Brokenhearted. It wasn’t the word I expected. But I’ve learned that element of surprise can be a good indicator that God is the one doing the talking.
The question that led me to this word was a lot less clear cut than the response. In fact, it wasn’t even my question; it was prompted by Whitney Capps, the closing keynote speaker at Proverbs 31’s She Speaks conference. My prayer sounded something like this: “Lord, I’m not sure what she said to pray for right now. I don’t know what I’m asking or hoping to hear. But I think it’s about my ministry call; I think I’m praying for a word, one word, for where you would have me serve.”
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
The idea of one word had been popping up a lot. First a friend told me about the book One Word and how it had changed her life. Then a woman I met spoke extensively about this concept, although it turned out she was unaware of the book. And now the keynote speaker had just directed 800 women to pray for one word from God to guide their ministries. She instructed us to write that word with a Sharpie on one of the rocks on our table.
The still small voice rang quickly and clearly: brokenhearted. As I wrote it on my rock I found immediate confirmation right in the palm of my hand: Had I held onto the small rock I originally selected instead of accepting the bigger rock my friend insisted on swapping because it is my company namesake (Big Rock Marketing), I would not have had space for my long word. Then several recent scenarios sprang to mind supporting this word:
- I was in the midst of a Bible study with a friend who has suffered much loss in her life. The study we chose? “The Mended Heart.”
- I recently reconnected with an old friend who, among other struggles has had a child diagnosed with a heart condition.
- And one of the book ideas on my own heart has been “God’s pursuit of the orphan’s heart.”
Personally I’ve never felt much affinity for the word brokenhearted; okay it’s worse than that, I don’t even like the word. Along with adolescent angst the word conjures unwanted images of 80s romance movies like “Ice Castles.” But the truth is I often wish for a more empathetic heart. I used to marvel at my coworker who cried regularly while reading the daily newspaper. My response to such stories is a sense of urgency to do something; I want to drive awareness, speak truth or create change. But empathy is a critical first step that I too often miss.
Brokenhearted comes from the Greek words syntribo (break, to break to pieces) and kardia (heart, denotes the center of all physical and spiritual life). These words appear in together only twice in Scripture, first in Isaiah 61:1, foretelling the coming of Messiah, and then in Luke 4:18 when Jesus claims Isaiah’s prophesy for himself:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up,and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
A sentence later it says, “He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”
Synonyms to brokenhearted appear in several Psalms, but this specific combination only: in reference to the coming of Jesus and in the proclamation of his arrival. Perhaps that is to make it clear that only Jesus can restore the brokenhearted. Paul instructs those serving in ministry: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”
My return home after She Speaks illustrated the importance of being the hands and feet of Jesus as clearly as, well, glass. The joy I felt from the conference and the anticipation of returning to my family quickly drained as I walked into a kitchen strewn with empty glasses, a laundry room brimming with clothes and plants drooping from neglect. It was a relief to see the dog still alive. I had been gone for just three days. My hope, my desire, was that my teenage children would “be my hands and feet” and serve my will by caring for our home, showing their love for me through service. I did not “expect it” as a test or proof of their love, but I hoped for it as an expression of gratitude and acknowledgment of the many ways I strive to serve and bless them. But alas, my kids are messy sinners just like me. With a few exceptions they could not see beyond the end of their own fingertips to see the need.
How often God must feel this way when I am so consumed with my own wants and desires that I fail to see the many ways, large and small, to be His hands and feet, even in my small corner of the world. My hope is that a commitment to be attuned to the “brokenhearted” will lead to a deeper understanding of what it means to live wholeheartedly. I am committed to write about the journey over the coming year.
More on the call to serve:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5
And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35