Wake Up Your Saints

God writes His prayers upon our hearts, so that when our hearts break, His prayers will entire us wholly, she said.  His love is there, always, and when we are most vulnerable and open to answers, He sustains us.

All day, I’ve turned this concept to and fro, both receiving it intuitively and puzzling over its practical implications.  I am faithless — at least, in the churchgoing sense.  I value the church as a vehicle through which I connect with my community, experience my heritage; a space in which to think and to purge and to wash clean; an arch wherethro’ Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades For ever and for ever when I move.

Often, I move just to make those margins fade.  I will not rest, and although I can pretend it’s to drink life to the lees, and maybe it usually is, Sunday morning is a mirror in which I cannot deny my cowardice.  By no means is it the only mirror; but at least on these days I look in the mirror, and the tenor recognizes me and squeezes my hand.

AP English’s — or TherAPy, as the locals dubbed it — most memorable task was one in which our teacher asked each of us to choose a quality we would like to fix within ourselves, and to perform some sort of project that would bring us closer to its realization.  I didn’t think this assignment was dumb, but I struggled to come up with an adjective or noun that felt real.  Maybe I’ve always been conceited, but I couldn’t think of any glaring fault that deserved a chunk of the semester’s grade.  So, I settled on “peace,” and my project was performing, unaccompanied, the slow movement from Weber’s Second.

Although I’m grateful for the ability to move others to tears through my art, it has made me uncomfortable, especially at that moment, sitting in a regular classroom, with twenty peers, most of whom I’d known for years, knowing I couldn’t really hide behind my music stand.  I hated playing slow movements in front of others because I was afraid they’d think I wasn’t as good as they’d heard — after all, the largos aren’t so show-offy.  Even more, though, I was uncomfortable with acquaintances’ emotions.  And, most of all, I didn’t want to show my own.  Nobody buys a ticket to The Parks Show for that girly shit.

On one hand, I felt like my quality, and my project, were cop-outs.  Other girls talked about their eating disorders, their emotional abuse; boys spoke of their inadequacies, with fathers, with girls, with coaches.  I felt guilty for being pretty happy with me, and for fabricating an full-blown insecurity out of a molehill, and for imposing this non-problem upon loved ones’ sympathies.

On the other, though, you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking.  Or, more accurate, you run from the dusk, and it is hot on your tail.  I struggle with slow movements, and still work to kill the impulse to smirk when others closed-eyes sing.

What does heartbreak mean?  Patience and kindness are true enough of the intact heart, but what about confusion and loss and ignorance and implosion?  How is it that love can cause us to be both hyperlogical (see, e.g., patience) and absolutely idiotic (see, e.g., notoverit)?  (See also, DK, I hate Sex and the City: Why does Carrie Write in Inane Questions?)

Burn out, fade out, limp out, slip in, sigh through, gaze past.  However it happens, the fucking unique snowflake leaves a unique hole that can never, ever be filled by another, and could not even be filled by the snowflake itself, once it’s wriggled free.  Some of us try to square peg the damn thing anyway; again, and again, and again, with peg after peg after peg, relishing the effort to beat the hole into submission.  Some recognize the hole’s singularity and pick the scab, luxuriating in the searing reminder of our own humanity.  Some of us ignore the hole entirely, until we think it’s okay to let another burrow in, and the Chinese Wall gives way, and we wonder what the hell happens now.

Heartbreak, like any other adversity, provides an opportunity to recognize that you’re capable of accepting God’s grace and to live in His image.  I have a beef with the perhaps-implied flipside, though: that, without heartbreak, God’s prayers don’t serve their full potential.  Whether we accept God’s prayers as a literal / religious or metaphorical concept, it seems shortsighted, self-pitying, and all too convenient to claim that we accept them most fully when we are broken.  Maybe that’s not the lesson at all, and it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s in the spirit in which the message is intended.

So sure, maybe when our hearts break, His prayers, or whatever you want to substitute for them, flood our cracks more readily, eager to take advantage of our pain.  But this, to me, seems rather sketchy — if God is so good, why should His ministers jump with glee at our suffering to interject their pegs into our faults?  Isn’t it healthier to think that, no matter our hearts’ conditions, we receive his prayers?  Maybe they’re written in felt-tip pen, and when our hearts are healthy, intact, the muscle’s fibers readily accept nutrients offered, and His prayers gently seep into our open pores, because we are light and happy to receive them.  And maybe our broken hearts also take His prayers, but it seems to me that in that situation, you’re just caulking up a mess that needs a little more.

His prayers enter us either way: whether we’re healthy and take them as delivered, or we’re broken and they flood our cracks.  It seems to me, though, that we might be able to make more of them when we can fold them into our most vibrant selves.  But then again, I suppose I can be quite the blasphemer.

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One thought on “Wake Up Your Saints

  1. Totally random…I saw your post on fbook! Your commentary on brokenness is compelling & I just felt like sharing. Brokenness sounds so ugly to me, and yet, as I read more of the Bible (and as I continue to read and teach literature to my kiddos), there’s definitely beauty in brokenness. (& the apex our faith rests upon is this: Jesus embraced our brokenness–brokenness that has hurt us and that has caused us to hurt others, brokenness that explains this crazy world–and took it on as his own, giving his body and breaking it for us.)

    As I’ve wrestled with God these past years (incidentally, I came to know Him through my own heartbreak), I’ve learned that he comes into brokenness in all its forms, not just my personal tragedies and loss but especially the injustice and poverty that flare my anger and the hypocrisy (my own, the church’s, America’s, college graduates’, etc.) that sickens me. These sadden and anger and sicken him as well. That’s the point. (“Rend your heart, not your garments,” Joel 2:13–true sorrow, repentance, and heartbreak, not religious ritual.) But he also wants our hearts soft (“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26)–in a sense, he wants our hearts broken. Then he can remake us, renew us, revive us. Reminds me of Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” (You make beautiful things / out of dust / You make beautiful things / out of us); 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5. He reaches down into the old, into the junk (and even on my best days, when I’m healthy and happy and going strong, when I’m kind to my students and buy local and advocate for justice and help others, there’s still lots of junk…not for me to dwell on, but to give up to be renewed), and shapes it for into something beautiful, into something that better resembles what it was intended to. (In his image, as you said.)

    Keep wrestling, keep searching, keep asking, keep sharing, Kari…I think you’re on to something! Looking forward to reading more.

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