I have lived my life within a church. From vbs to Sunday school to Lads to Leaders. From youth group to church camp to fireside devotionals. I have been surrounded by this God-ordained institution.
And the church that I attend now? An incredible blessing. That place, those people. It has truly changed my heart.
And last Sunday when I shared my story with my church, I saw a church that was alive. Raised hands, Amens, and Spirit-filled faces. What a blessing to share my story, when my story merged with theirs. I prayed for the story that has been written on my heart to reach one person. Just one heart. And God is so faithful. When we step out of the way, when we stop writing our own stories for ourselves, God does incredible things.
(I shared a version of my broken arms/broken heart story that has been posted in various forms on my blog. The version that I shared on Sunday is included at the bottom of this blog).
But I have also been surrounded by something else – by a body of believers. A cloud of witnesses. A church of friends as I like to call them. And oh, do I have a church.
I live my life within a church of friends. People who speak truth into my life. People whose hearts I know intimately and people who know my own heart just as well. My core group of friends who are so close to my heart that, I promise you, the Holy Spirit has connected our hearts with unbreakable bonds. They text me at the exact moment that I am doubting myself to tell me that I am beautiful and worthy. They call me on nights that I feel lonely to tell me that I am dearly loved. I come home from work on a really bad day to find a hand written letter in my mail box. Incredible. The reason why they are my church is not because I have spent more time with them than other friends (which might be true). It’s not because of the fun trips that we’ve had (which we have had) or the adventures we’ve been on together (which we have done) or the countless dinners we have shared around a table together (which happens every week). Those things make us friends. Best friends. But we have shared our lives and our hearts with each other. We have laid our hearts bare. We have allowed our struggles to become our stories and allowed those stories to speak Truth into each other’s lives. What a blessing my church of friends has been – to know that you are never walking on this journey alone. To know that you were brought into relationship for such a time as this. That’s what makes us more than friends - a church of friends.
Broken Arms, Broken Hearts
I’m a big time dreamer. I’m not just talking about goals and ambitions – that’s true too. But I’m a big time dreamer… in my sleep.
In the past couple of years I’ve developed a condition known as non-REM parasomnia. What happens is that my brain can no longer filter out what it should and should not be responding to when I’m asleep. This means that I do two things. I will repeat any normal, household, every day task in my sleep. Cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, getting dressed, taking a shower, moving furniture… just any really practical, functional item to be doing in your sleep.
But I do something else, too. I act out what it is that I’m doing in my dreams. My most notorious example of this happened a little over a year ago when I was asleep on my sister’s pull out couch at her home in Indiana. I had just fallen asleep when before I know it I’m on a raft in the middle of a raging river. I’m trying to survive the rapids when a black snake with glowing yellow eyes starts to get on my raft. I panic, but then look to my left and see another raft going upstream. I get on my hands and knees and count one two three. And I jump as hard as I can from one raft to the other.
And then I wake up on the floor.
Because in my dream when I am jumping raft to raft, in real life I jumped from my bed onto the floor.
I woke up the instant I hit the ground. I stood up and thought, “I can’t believe I jumped out of bed again.”
And then I thought, “I can’t move my arm.”
When I landed on the ground on my hands and knees all of my weight had gone onto my left arm and I actually ended up breaking the bone in my arm.
I had to have surgery the next day to repair the broken bone. I was really nervous because I had never had surgery or been put to sleep before. The doctor was great. He came in and went through his normal routine of “You’re fine. I do this all the time. Everything will be great.” But then he did the most important thing that happened to me that day. He bent down, looked me in the eye, and signed his name on my arm right where he was about to do surgery. It’s as if he were saying, “This arm? This broken one? It hurts so bad and I know it will hurt worse before it feels better, but it will feel better. I promise! I know this because arms are my thing. I fix broken arms and I make them just like new every single time. Your arm is broken now, but it will be healed. I know this because it has my name written all over it.”
This is beautiful to me because we are all broken in other ways too. Our hearts are broken from the loneliness or the shame or the eating disorder or the alcoholism or the consumerism or whatever it is that is taking up a part of our heart that Jesus is dying to fill. That Jesus did die to fill. And yes, we are a broken people, but our stories do not end in brokenness because we have a great Healer. A Healer who enters into our broken world in the form of a carpenter, a cross, a crucifixion, and an empty cave to offer us redemption, salvation, and healing. A God who looks down, sees our broken heart, and He signs His name on our hearts. And He says, “This heart? This broken one? It hurts so bad and I know it will hurt worse before it feels better, but it will get better. I promise! I know this because hearts are my thing. I fix broken hearts and I make them just like new every single time. Your heart is broken now, but it will be healed. I know this because it has my name written all over it.”