my heart can't hold it
It was nearly midnight as I buried my face in my pillow and wept. My children were safely tucked in their beds and my husband was fast asleep next to me. By all accounts, I was perfectly comfortable, surrounded by warm covers and fluffy pillows.
All was peaceful but for the turmoil in my heart that kept me awake.
In the past, I had this unspoken deal with God: I’d do my best for everyone who I saw in need around me. But I simply had to close my eyes to much of what I saw. It was too much, too painful, and too sad.
I felt like my kids when they were small and they would hide in the middle of the floor with their heads down and their eyes squeezed shut. If they couldn’t see me, then I couldn’t see them... or perhaps I wasn’t even there.
I blindly prayed for and supported things while saving my delicate heart from really understanding the deep pain and sorrow that many face in this world.
Then something happened which led me to question my approach.
I had just recently explored my response to homelessness. I became intrigued when a formerly homeless man told me that the hardest thing was seeing people who treated him like he was invisible. You can read all about it here: Invisible.
I realized I had made homeless people invisible. And so I wondered if there were other groups that I didn’t really see.
I didn’t want to find out there were more people who were invisible to me. I had done enough for one month. But I cautiously kept praying for the Holy Spirit to show me where I could take steps towards understanding in this area.
As always, Jesus opened my eyes. I began to feel a need to fully grasp and understand the pain of the invisible and oppressed people that is all around me, but often too difficult to see. I needed some easy next steps. Then I noticed a video that I knew I should watch. But oh, how I wanted to not see it.
Instead of drifting off to sleep watching Netflix, I started the video about a young boy who had been rescued from sex trafficking by International Justice Mission (IJM). It was an incredible story of pain and deliverance. Just the kind I so carefully avoid to keep my tender heart from aching.
My hands pressed my pillow into my face again, catching the silent tears. My heart was full of hurt, pain, anger, and desperation at what this little boy had been forced to suffer at such a young age.
This is exactly what I had been trying to avoid while crying at midnight with a broken heart.
Why couldn’t I just keep this invisible? Why couldn’t I just send a check once a year without knowing those stories? Why couldn’t I say a blanket prayer and move on with my day?
I cried out to the Lord, “My heart can’t hold it!”
Then I heard a gentle whisper, “It was never supposed to.”
This couldn’t be. If I was to hear the problems of the world, wasn’t I supposed to soak them all up into myself like a sponge or carry them on my shoulders like a backpack? Was there really a way to hear these stories and still be free?
I read, prayed, and questioned God. How was I to begin processing these things? And why did I need to know them in the first place?
I remembered what Jesus had spoken in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I started studying yokes in the Bible. I imagined two oxen sharing a heavy wooden yoke attached to machinery that pulled against them as it dug into the earth. That’s what the yoke felt like, and I didn’t want it.
I started believing that if I shared my yoke with Jesus, He might lighten the load. I started being truthful as I prayed... about my fears and longings to be in the dark, but yearning also to enter the light and learn more about the people groups I had made invisible.
It was time for me to stop being the small child with my head down in the carpet, “hiding” in the middle of the room. I needed to look up and see what was happening around me so I could be ready to respond. It was time to trust that my Father could take and hold all that I was seeing around me.
I’ve been working on this for a few months now and with each face and each story I see and hear, I begin to change. My heart softens. I pray more, I speak up more, and I seek new ways to show others that I see them.
Of course, I’m still practicing. Some days my heart still holds the pain. Then I remember that it was never supposed to hold it. Friends, will you join me as I learn to make the invisible visible? Regardless of political position or stance, can you and I seek to really see others, understand their story, and pray for them?
Post by Randa Smith (CG West).