“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” C.S. Lewis (Four Loves)
I listen to stories. That’s how I spend a lot of my time. Now I couldn’t tell you the fine details of how I arrived at this place of vocational privilege and joy, but a clue would be that I decided to follow my heart. That choice did not come cheap – my heart was broken in the process, not just once or twice…it seems the price of love is another scar or tremor to the core of our being, associated with our strongest emotions – the heart.
The stories I hear are like rich tapestries, woven with the colours of the universe. People often come to see me when they feel they become stuck in some of the dark colours – the seasons of life that are littered with heartbreak.
Our modern world tells stories of shame or pity around heartbreak. Heartbreak is something that is treated as a strange anomaly. People write and speak and theorise and theologise about ways to avoid heartbreak, to take control, to determine our own destiny…but the stories of the heart call folly on such futile efforts.
It was my grandmother who said that life is full of hardship, enjoy the sunshine when you can. I always thought that to be rather macabre…until I lived a few more years on this earth. She was right. If we are going to live building our life narrative with the pursuit of what is meaningful and valuable to us, in other words, what we love, then we live with the 100% guarantee that at some stage, our hearts will be broken.
Our hearts are broken because to live is to struggle. Our hearts are broken because life, like love, as the prophetic genius, Leonard Cohen wrote, ‘is not a victory march, but a cold and broken Hallelujah’. So, in a sense, we can look at our world, and the history of our world, and recognise that broken hearts, like greying hair, like wrinkles, like beginnings and endings, are part of the human existence. We can find that distressing, or…
…or ‘we can ring the bells that still can ring, forget our perfect offering, there is a crack in everything …because that is how the light gets in’ (Cohen). What if there’s another dimension to broken hearts? What if we raise our children with the wisdom to understand that to have your heart break is not a failure. It is not the anomaly that a dominant triumphant discourse of an insatiable culture makes it out to be. And that if we want to live life building on our hopes, dreams, values, and love, that we will do a lot of that with a broken heart? And that a broken heart can become a catalyst for transformation?
I look back and think about how desperately I wanted to protect my children from the very thing I could never protect them from – a broken heart. Instead, the best gift I can give them is not to protect them from the inevitable, but to prepare them for it. To teach them that the world is full of shadows and full of light and that there are seasons when we will travel through what feels like an eternity of dark valleys, but if we begin to listen to our hearts, our sometimes very broken hearts, they remind us of the many stories that make up our lives. Yes, stories of sadness and loss, but also stories of resilience, stories of courage, stories that remind us of what is meaningful to us. Amongst all these stories we discover so many skills, like courage, that help us in letting go, and in doing so we learn to clasp what our hearts have been telling us all along …
That love is the greatest of all. And if we choose to love with reckless abandon, if we choose to live life to the full, then our lives, like great explorer maps, will be dotted with untold treasures and many broken heart moments.
So, dear weary pilgrim, let your heart anchor you in times of overwhelming fear and uncertainty. Your beautiful heart, your beautiful, broken heart, knows the way home…and the way home is love…
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”