The Ministry of Broken Hearts

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Minister | Verb: To attend to the needs of others; to take care of someone. Original Latin meaning: “servant.”

These words have been rolling through my mind lately. Over and over again.

The Ministry of Broken Hearts. Serving and caring for those with broken hearts.

This week feels extra heavy. Dean died. A little boy I got to know through my work with the Ethan Lindberg Foundation. His parents remind me of us, giving all, loving with everything they’ve got, advocating in every way, leaving no stone unturned. And yet here we are. Last Sunday I got a message that my friend’s dad had died. She had cared for him so well, and he took a turn for the worse while she was on Spring Break. She rushed back to say goodbye. Another family staying in one of the foundation’s apartments is facing the death of their daughter. She’s 14 and awesome, and her heart is sick. There are no medical options left.

For so long I wanted to fix the heartache of everyone around me as if I was that powerful. I think what I really wanted was to convince myself that it was not so bad. Many people tried that when Ethan was sick. They thought if they did this or said that maybe they could fix it. It’s what we do as humans. We don’t really want to grasp the pain that others endure, so if we can play a part in fixing it, then we can make it better for them and ultimately for ourselves.

The only problem is that fixing is not possible. And that brings me to the Ministry of Broken Hearts. The calling that all of us humans have on our lives. Some of us in more dramatic and direct ways than others. But we are all called to it.

Shoot.

I bet you didn’t want to hear that. Just want to interject here that you cannot “catch” the same pain someone else has by being around them and ministering to them. Because you reach out to a mom whose child has died does not mean yours will die. Embracing a friend who has lost their home or livelihood doesn’t mean you will lose yours too.

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You can’t fix them.

But here is what you can do. You can help carry the broken-hearted.

Imagine deep personal pain is like luggage. Backpacks, rolling suitcases, duffle bags. Think luggage in each hand, on your back and more dragging behind each leg. Carrying someone’s pain is something like picking up some of their bags and carrying them. You cannot bear it all, but you can lighten the load.

In my desire to fix people’s pain I had to wrestle to another realization. Each person’s story is theirs to bear. My story is mine to experience. I am called to my story. To the joys and pains set before me. It is the same with the families I serve. I cannot fix, but I can help carry. That has been the spirit behind the Ethan Lindberg Foundation. How can we help carry? All the money in the world, the greatest medical minds, the most prestigious medical institution couldn’t save Ethan. But people who walked with us saved us.

Now, this is all counter-cultural. We live in a time and space that tries like mad to avoid pain. From post work out pain to relationship break up pain to the pain of seeing someone with a disability. We disconnect. We numb. We look away. We avoid. We scroll. We tell ourselves – “that will never be me.” Until it is us or someone we love. Then we have to look. Kind of. If we choose.

You don’t have to have the same experience as someone else to enter their space, just the desire to do it. I’ve received several questions this week from women who want to reach out to Dean’s mom, and they don’t’ know what to do or say. They want to let her know she’s loved and the truth is they feel helpless. Dean’s mom knows that these women can’t fix her broken heart. At the risk of speaking for her, she wants to be seen and loved, and she wants to honor Dean, her son, who taught her more about life and love then she could have ever imagined.

Here’s where I fill you in on three things to consider if you want to minister to broken hearts: the catch, the caveat, and the silver lining.

  1. The Catch: It’s tough to minister to broken hearts if you have not tended to your own. Seeking healing, wrestling through the challenges in your own life will position you to help others. You will be able to reach back and pull up a sister or a brother who is really struggling. So, if you haven’t tended to your own heart, I’m calling you to do it today. Working toward healing is not just for you, it’s for your community and ultimately for our collective humanity. We are never a finished product this side of heaven– 100% healed – but taking steps in that direction will not only help you but others who need you.

  2. The Caveat: Life is full of different seasons. If you are in the depths of the depths, it is okay. We will minister to you. I’m here to remind you that you are not alone, that you are not destined to stay in the depths. Keep going, keep looking up, and keep doing the work. Rest when you need to. Be very gentle with yourself.

  3. The Silver Lining: Being a minister to broken hearts means you also get to discover more joy. You get to experience more wonder. You find joy in unlikely spaces. You are more content. I’m reading The Book of Joy, and this quote sums it up:

Discovering more joy does not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.
— The Book of Joy p. 17

So, if you want to enter the ministry of broken hearts this week here are some things you can do:

  • Send a text to someone who is hurting. Keep reminding them you care.

  • Give someone your time.

  • Send them a note in the mail.

  • Drop something off at their house. (a gift card, plant/flowers) My friend Kelly brought me soup last week when I was sick and it was the most comforting gesture.

  • Learn more about a topic that really grabs your heart. What can you do for this community? What skill can you lend that might help them?

  • Use your talents to tell a story that needs to be told.

  • Use your position to support or advocate for someone.

  • Invite someone over.

  • Give money. This really helps. It takes money to help people and move causes tangibly.

  • Pray. Meditate. Listen to how you might be called.

  • Pay attention and just show up.

What would happen if all humans joined in this ministry of serving others?

Let’s walk together. Join me in the ministry of broken hearts. Not just with lip service. Grab a bag this week and help carry someone as they walk the path set before them.

Sunday Love to you.

This is Dean. Join me in praying for his family. Even if you don't know them, you can minister to their broken hearts through prayer and sending them collective love.

This is Dean. Join me in praying for his family. Even if you don't know them, you can minister to their broken hearts through prayer and sending them collective love.