There’s a wound in the human heart that isn’t self-healing producing anxiety, broken relationships, and damaged lives. In scope, it’s a pandemic severely infecting America. It’s making us violent beyond compare. And in the fallout, more lives are shattered as bystanders offer up prayers. Yet, I was graphically reminded recently that prayers alone don't change a bad situation. Action must be taken.
Last week, in reflecting on the Las Vegas shooting, I wrote that our societal problem is systemic, reaching beyond black steel and plastic to the heart of humanity. I gambled that the media and social chatter wouldn’t address the issue accurately. Rather, the scapegoats became inanimate objects capable of absolutely nothing other than collecting dust if left to themselves. And, after a week, I must say, I was spot on.
Bump stocks, automatic firearms, and assault rifles stole the lion share of the headlines over hurting souls twisted with grief, emotional pain, and loneliness. To be clear, I'm not advocating support for any firearm or Second Amendment in this post. And, I’m not a mental health worker, but this is my educated, well-experienced opinion. Nearly two decades of engaging people and observing, first hand, our societal decline serves as the foundation of this post.
Years ago I was part of an extended family in a small church. The congregants were real, raw and a bit rowdy at times. One guy attended services with his pants still wet from wading in a trout stream earlier that morning. Chit-chat chatter could be heard during the sermon, too. But it was home. It was comfortable. But for some, it was still a lonely place.
A man sat on the end pew, just inside the center aisle. Thoughts and words shot across his mind as he wondered if anyone even noticed his presence; quiet, unassuming. But this particular day he sat entertaining a darker thought. A consideration too frightening for words. Then, out of nowhere, a hand touched his shoulder as the pastor made his way toward the platform. No words exchanged. No smiles traded. Just a touch, seemingly meaningless to the reverend, it held the gift of life to the man. Darkness parted like Moses through the Red Sea. And as quickly as steam from boiling water disappears, so too, did the man’s dark thoughts.
The human heart craves belonging!
After years of interacting with people from all walks of life, from crack-smoking homeless men in Kensington, Philadelphia, to multimillion-dollar earning professionals, there’s one thing I've determined the human heart craves, belonging. It's why teens endure humiliation to be part of a gang. Why some tolerate abuse and neglect in relationships. We are designed for community and will even foster unhealthy companionship in achieving it. Without connection, the soul of a person withers and dies and in death the darker kind of brokenness emerges. A brokenness resulting in shots fired from windows, road rage on the turnpike, domestic violence, and school-yard bullying. I can’t say it’s always easily fixed with a touch on the shoulder, but it can be.
Saying a relationship with Jesus will fix it all doesn’t cut it.
I don’t want to spiritualize or simplify this serious topic; neglecting it has already tallied its victims. Saying a relationship with Jesus will fix it all doesn’t cut it. Too many Jesus-following people sit in church week after week with crushed countenances. Smiling on the outside while grimness eats away on the inside, longing for personal interaction. No, this has to be a flesh-to-flesh experience. Yes, I do believe only Jesus can truly heal a broken heart to its fullness. However, Jesus called us to do two things - love God with all we are, 100%, and love our neighbors as we truly love ourselves. Can you imagine what the world, our neighborhoods and our homes would look like if we turned our narcissistic, self-centered love outward?
When reading the Bible, I’m fascinated by the accounts of Jesus touching people. He touched lepers, people with parts of their bodies falling off. He touched prostitutes and allowed them to caress him, anointing him with perfume. He embraced the sick, downtrodden and demonized. He. Touched. People. We have to do the same.
I don’t expect this changing everything overnight. In fact, I think we’re beyond the tipping point. Texting, FaceBook, Twitter and a multitude of other media platforms have become poor substitutes for face-to-face human interaction. I watch, week after week, high school students sitting around tables completely quiet while texting. But when the proverbial effluent hits the rotating blades, Twitter won’t reach out and touch someone. It's not hopeless. We can slow the progress of the vial plague of broken hearts.
I recently heard this little fact, the number one reason why people stay at a job isn’t due to substantial pay or fantastic bosses, no, it’s whether or not they have a workplace buddy. Having a “work wife” or “work spouse” is the main reason people stay at a job. The workplace longevity for most people is about connection, not the contract! Confiding in, share joys and sorrows with another person cements feet to the ground in ways high salaries and supportive managers cannot. I think this is where most failed marriages collapse, the couple ceases - or never began - to share simple intimacies. Sure they have five kids, but the foundational idea of being connected at the human level never took root.
So, now what? Where do we go from here? It starts very simply with one person, you! Find someone and share a cup of coffee, a lunchtime sandwich, a water cooler conversation. Open door policies don't work! Go beyond yourself, reaching out to someone near you, speaking face-to-face. Put down the cell phone, take out the ear buds, and connect with humanity. Sure, it’ll be scary, but it’s one step toward healing a broken heart, that may just be yours.
It starts very simply with one person, you!
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