Recently I had one of those moments where, surrounded by chaos and noise, the world became completely quiet. Maybe you’ve had one of those moments before, where the mayhem, the colour and the demands of the world around all fade away as your focus is fixed on one single, precious thing.
As part of my work as a community development advisor for the International Nepal Fellowship, not long ago, I was carrying out a field visit to a remote village in south-west Nepal, and on this particular occasion I was visiting a community ‘Aama Samuhaa’ (Mothers Group). Feeling completely overwhelmed by the intense welcome we always receive, I sat down in the circle surrounded by 30 mothers and their numerous children, climbing and clamouring for attention. Needless to say, this was a community deep in the grip of poverty, and one did not have to look far to see the devastating effects of this on all aspects of the mothers’ lives.
As the women began to introduce themselves, my gaze settled on a small boy sitting in front of his mother. Past his torn clothes and bare feet – on a day that can’t have been more than 4 degrees Celsius – I watched his lethargic movements and instantly recognised the all-too-common signs of child malnourishment. Not more than 4 years old, he barely had the energy to swat away the flies covering his face, and even his eyes blinked ever so slowly. In that moment, as the world around was silent, I sat watching this precious little boy, and my heart broke.
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As a teenager and young adult, I can’t even count the number of times I sang to God the line from one of my favourite songs ‘Hosanna’ by Brooke Fraser.
Break my heart for what breaks Yours.
I would passionately sing this line, crying out to God to guide me and use me to serve the poor and needy in this broken world. I thought that there was nothing that would stop me from fulfilling this calling. But now, years later, as I live in this country of Nepal- where 47% of children are undernourished, 55% of the population live below the poverty line, and the number of women dying in childbirth is 32 times higher than Australia – I’m confronted daily by the devastating effects of poverty, and I’m reluctant to admit that there have been many moments of weakness recently where I’ve reconsidered this prayer that I prayed.
If you’ve ever had circumstances in life that distress you so deeply, you’ll know this feeling of actual ‘heart break’, where it goes beyond the emotional to a point where your heart literally aches with pain. In my first seven months of living in Nepal, I have already experienced this too many times, as I am faced with children as young as 4 years old living on the streets, forced to beg for their survival, or as I stand in a room full of tiny, helpless babies who were abandoned at the hospital and will spend their childhood growing up in an orphanage. At that moment I realise that if my heart is breaking, then the heart of God must be in agony for such children across the world. When the pain becomes too great, I joke with myself that maybe I wasn’t so serious about this whole ‘broken heart’ idea after all, and I consider whether maybe I could take back my prayers?
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And then I’m reminded of the line in the song that follows: “Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause”. And I realise that the first line cannot be sung without the second, because if we are to take seriously this prayer to have our hearts broken and to be used for the service of others, then we must give everything we are and have, and commit our entire lives to the cause of bringing about God’s Kingdom here on earth. It’s too painful to stand in the middle, to constantly have my heart broken and not give everything in response. And there’s no way I could keep experiencing and witnessing these things without the knowledge that in the end, “The sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more and never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days.” (Isaiah 2:4)
Question: What is it that causes your heart to break on behalf of others?