This week’s post is a little different than the usual Confronted by Christ fare. It’s devotional rather than conceptual, and I pray that you will read it in that way; slowly, prayerfully, and hungrily. Rather than an idea, today’s post features three images.
We all experience heartbreak, heartache, hurt, and pain. In these times, we often feel lost at sea, desperately searching for something to hold onto. And often, because of his gracious love, Christ confronts us, not in the loud voice of the prophet, but in the gentle whisper of the shepherd, knowing what we need, offering us something to hold onto. I want to share these images as flotsam in the sea of life that I have held onto in the midst of heartache in the hope that they may also be of benefit to you.
Recently, a dear brother of mine, Kyle (who also is a great photographer), wrote me a letter in which he reflected on Christ’s calming the storm. He wrote, “now you are going ‘to the other side’ to be in the right place – the place where God wants you and has called you. The beautiful thing is that you do not go alone. Jesus is in the boat with you.” Jesus is in the boat with you. It’s a wonderful image. An overcast day, the seas are choppy and water sloshes over the sides of the boat wetting my feet, making me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a stormy day and I am fearful. Yet I do not row alone; Jesus is there, in the boat, gently encouraging. There is no such thing as loneliness in his presence, there is no danger. As my heart breaks, as I am forced to leave a shore where I wanted to stay to go to the other side, to the right place, I never go alone; Jesus is in the boat with me.
The Clay Pot.
I also recently received an email from my dad, speaking truth in light of recent pain. He wrote “Henri Nouwen, and others, would say that our brokenness is the fuel for grace. It allows us to both receive and impart more grace than we ever could in our wholeness.” The image this brought to mind was of a clay pot submerged in a thick syrup. As fractured lines begin to show in the clay pot, the syrup begins to seep into the cracks; when the pot fragments, the syrup rushes in, filling the interior and holding the shards together. So it is with grace. As my heart begins to show signs of breaking, grace fills them. When my heart breaks, grace rushes in, filling me and I am left with pieces, held together by grace, that precious, sweet grace of Christ.
In one of my classes we discussed Julian of Norwich, a late medieval mystic. Julian recorded a series of visions that she received from God when she experienced a sickness that left her near death. In one of the visions, she is shown a thing the size of a hazelnut in the palm of her hand. She wonders what it is and is told “it is everything which is made.” It is a tiny thing, the entire cosmos, held in her hand. It seems likely that it will just pass into non-existence. Yet, “it lasts and always will, because God loves it…” I am a part of that hazelnut, so close to simply passing away but for the love of God. As I think on the hazelnut I am reminded of God’s size, and his goodness held so closely together, pictured so perfectly in Jesus. I am reminded that the hand holding the hazelnut is not my own, nor Julian’s but God’s gently keeping my very heart beating out of love, deep love.
I don’t know if these images touch your heart like they do mine but they remind me that I have been born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) and, in the words of Julian, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in times of joy but even more so in times of heartbreak.