Saturday, September 26, 2009

embracing the heart of God

i have spent years praying that i would know the heart of God. somehow, i imagined it would be a warm, pleasant experience, full of love and compassion. but the word of God that has come to me repeatedly in the months following the bridge's closure is paul's proclamation in philippians 3:10, where he says, "i want to know Jesus, not only in the power of his resurrection, but also in sharing his sufferings." to be misjudged, rejected, humiliated, abandoned, and betrayed -- these are the sufferings of Jesus, yet his love -- even towards those who occasioned his suffering -- does not waver. this is the heart of God. could anyone really want that?

looking at God's heart from a different angle, our church has been reflecting together on the book of james, which has some pointed things to say about how people of faith should live, especially with regard to the poor and the vulnerable. many of us have also been reading the hole in our gospel, a book written by world vision president richard stearns -- a man who dared to ask God to break his heart with the things that break God's heart. and if you take a good look at the world, it's not hard to find those things. the brokenness caused by sin is everywhere. millions of women are sold into sex slavery. children are 'recruited' into the lord's resistance army and forced to see and commit murder, rape, and other horrible atrocities. 15 million children have been orphaned by AIDS; a growing number of households are headed by children after both parents have died from AIDS, with the predictable consequences of poverty, lack of education, and lack of health care. almost half the world's population lives on less than $2.50 per day; 25,000 children die each day due to poverty. dare we imagine that God isn't moved by any of this?

some classic theologians, notably augustine, have argued for the impassibility of God, leading some to conclude that God does not suffer or feel emotions, at least not because of anything that anyone else is doing. but does God not grieve over the sinful disposition of humanity (genesis 5:6-7)? is he not pleased when we choose wisely (1 kings 3:10)? does he not delight in us and rejoice over us with singing (zephaniah 3:17)? does he not have compassion for the afflicted and oppressed (judges 2:18)? all christians believe that God loves the world (john 3:16) -- surely that's not a love without any kind of feeling?

whatever one calls it, it is not always pleasant. in fact, when faced with even the palest shade of it, i can feel myself shrinking back. yet his voice persists: do you really want to know my heart? loving, it seems, is a painful business. "you risk tears if you let yourself be tamed..."

you have heard that it was said, 'you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' but i say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Jesus, in matthew 5:43-44


God's Broken Heart (by Michael Digby Foley, aka Midifo Yearns)

The heart of God is torn and broken
a tear rolls down the mother’s cheek
a cry of anguish breaks the silence
the pain disrupts the longed for sleep.
Fist is raised with flashing eyes
pain explodes and snuffs the cries
as wires attached to body parts
tears at the darkness, brings the sign
of horrid thoughts and cruel design
that forces urine down as wine
and makes him lick and slugg and slobber
like pig today and skunk tomorrow.

The heart of God is torn asunder
when empty heads, inhuman acts
distort the truth, unravel facts
and silence those who dare to say
a word of peace, a cry of justice

Then silence breaks the growing thunder
of stench and pain and heartless plunder;
raping virgins, killing life,
breaking bones and causing strife,
in order just for some to prosper,
while others must be quiet
offer up their hurt and name
for freedom to emerge, to claim
a place, for all around
a prayer for mercy and for sound
of voice that’s gentle and affirming

The heart of God is moved and pained
his face is moist, his body strained.
With outstretched arms
he calls and cries
his breath of life reduced to sighs
of strained pleas and spoilt love
that speaks a language from above
and enters in to stir the heart
and move the evil to depart
and so bring life and healing care
to banish darkness and despair.
He comes to conquer pain
and kindle hope that snuffs at evil
brings the rain of mercy sweet
of victory deep,
of joy both simple and divine...


dy said...

Thank you for writing this post. It is speaking to me deeply.

gr8god said...

thanks, dy.

Michael said...

thanks for connecting my poem to sound theological reflection based on the word of God. Midifo

gr8god said...

hi midifo,

thank you for your comment; it's a pleasure to connect with you. i was really moved by your poem, and was glad to be able to include it here. please forgive me for not asking for permission ahead.

i'd love to know a bit more about your life and ministry. if you are willing, you can drop me a line at

blessings to you --