The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick – who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
I saw a random video last week and it startled me. A clip from an HBO show in which three parties took turns responding to college students’ questions. A pretty girl stepped up… “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” There were a few fluffy answers such as diversity and opportunity and freedom. But one guy shocked everyone in the room. He said America is not the greatest country.
The man used statistics and facts to backup his reasoning. He continued by saying he didn’t know what in the f*** people were talking about when they say America is the greatest country. He had my unswerving attention by that point, I can tell you. Thus, his summation was loud and clear, practically reverberating in my ear. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. Without a doubt, I knew God wanted me to take note of that statement.
On the heels of this video, a question arose in my mind. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I learned it’s a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality (according to Wikipedia). Basically, can something exist without being perceived? For instance, is sound only sound if it’s heard?
An interesting concept in light of the recent America speech I absorbed, so it’s a direction I’m willing to travel this morning. Because I wonder… if a problem isn’t perceived, is there one? Or better yet, rather than contemplating the state of our country and the trees outside my backyard, how about focusing inward instead. To matters of the heart. Because therein I find a new question… If a woman doesn’t perceive her own heart is broken, is it broken at all? And if the bearer of said heart never heard the clanging of it’s shattering pieces, did it make a sound at all?
I was fine a month ago. Ready to take on the world. Confident, expectant, and excited. I had just finished all my preparation for a writing conference… a book proposal and a one sheet. It was all consuming, but a necessary step. See, I think there’s a book inside me. One that will help other women who need healing. Women who battle feelings of inferiority and insignificance. Because that’s my story. And one month ago, I thought I’d overcome it all.
But after meeting with an editor, my confidence waned. And by the time mid-afternoon rolled around, I felt like the air had been let out of my tire. Most assuredly, I was not looking forward to dinner and the evening session. Alas, I’d already dropped a big chunk of change on the trip so I had to go. I was late to dinner so every table was pretty full and I had to find a place amidst a sea of strangers. I asked if anyone was sitting in a seat and though the person seemed reluctant, it was offered.
Minutes later, a pretty, thin woman sat next to me and I realized she’d been saving my seat for someone else. But she was gracious. And as we chatted, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly laid back and utterly relaxed she was. Ultra cool and nerves didn’t seem to touch her. In contrast to my publisher’s meeting, hers went well. Very well. In fact, she planned to blow off the evening session so she could polish off her book proposal. Yes, her editor wanted to see hers. Not only that, the conference was kind of an afterthought. She decided to check it out while she was home for a visit. Not so with me. I put a great deal of thought into it… should I or shouldn’t I?
As we shared our tales, she made a remark about certain type of women with their large jewelry and loud ways. And there I sat, from the very same region, with my very large earrings dangling. Her ears and wrists were bare and she donned a simple necklace. In contrast, I felt like a big oaf. Frumpy. Old. Foolish. And as she slid away from me to interact with another person at our table, I felt it all. Sharply. My heart was pierced. I was rejected in favor of another. Unwanted. Not chosen. And this was the point I regressed to a ten year old. Smiling when I felt like crying. Trying to look like it didn’t matter when it mattered more than anything else.
Finally the infernal dinner was over and it was time for the evening session. And can you believe it? They opened with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cindi Lauper. This being a hit from my fifth grade year. I swear it was 1983 all over again. Only this time, I wasn’t in the cafeteria surrounded by cooler kids. I was sitting in a nice banquet room surrounded by women way more competent than me. More appealing. That’s when tears singed my eyes. My lashes concealed them and the smile faded from my face. I stood there, stone faced, while 800 women danced and sang and laughed.
Oh, blessed relief when we sat down for business. And the speaker was good. Inspiring. And incredibly, she brought a smile to my face. A laugh from deep within. But then she got serious. She recounted a story of a friend’s heartfelt prayer. The woman cried out, “God, remember me?” And that’s when my insides fissured. That was the moment I knew my heart was broken indeed. Moreover, it had been broken for a long, long time. Ever since 1983. In reality, I wasn’t fine like I thought I was. Never had been. I was not the woman I depicted in my one sheet. And rather than being in a position to help women heal, I found myself in need of healing.
Sticks and stones…
We’ve all heard it, right? Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt me. What a lie that is. For sure sticks and stones break bones but words are so powerful. Because they break your insides. And careless words from another can haunt you for the rest of your life. At least if you allow them to. It appears that’s what I did.
You know, my husband is so good to me. He’s always trying to build me up and pays me compliments pretty often. But the thing is I never believe him. I always shrug them off. No, you’re just saying that. No I’m not, I look awful. This is what comes out of my mouth because it’s how I think. Self-worth eroded by years of derogatory statements.
The first fell in the fifth grade. And another negative comment was layered on that one, and then another and another. Things like, “Why’d you say that, Pam, that was stupid?” And “Is that what you’re wearing to dinner?” And there’s the one who changed the lyrics of a song to, “Pam’s a loser, baby…” And the one who said, “I’m not going to blow smoke up your rear,” when I said I’d lost weight. And when I shared the news of my engagement, a loved one said, “We didn’t think he’d take you!” All these piled up, one by one, till they simply covered me. I was buried under a mountain of criticisms. And underneath them all, I felt like a big nothing. A loser. Insignificant and small. Invisible in a sea of lovely ladies.
That’s how I felt the night I discovered my broken heart. Invisible to everyone. And then, a speaker voiced my inner cry. She said, “Remember me, God?” I came undone as my shattered heart was revealed. And I was stunned.
I bought the above book the day after my heart split wide open. Just this morning I read, “Honey, sometimes God lets you remember for a reason.” It spoke to me. Because He let me remember my pain. Why? Perhaps so I’d remember the power of words and their effect on me. And so I’d use them to build up the women surrounding me rather than tearing them down. Or perhaps it was so I’d know truth. That my heart was broken and I didn’t even know it.
But how could I know my heart was broken? See, it didn’t happen all at once. No huge traumatic event to tip me off. It simply happened over the course of many years. Gradually worn down. No, it wasn’t violence or tragedy or death that broke my heart. Just one sharp jab after another.
So today I see clearly. And though the bulk of those belittling comments are from the past, quite obviously they’re part of my present. Because after all these years, harsh words still have the power to diminish me. Rather than listening to God’s voice, I’ve been listening to the voices of years gone by. Words that broke my heart. I’ve been deceived. And in a sense, my heart is the victim of fraud. Conned into believing I’m worthless.
So, I’m brought back to my initial question. If a woman doesn’t perceive her own heart is broken, is it really broken? Yes. YES. Just as I couldn’t perceive my own reality, it didn’t make it any less real. Could this be another woman’s reality? Yes. YES. Because like me, she may not know. Camouflaged by numbness or a melancholy demeanor, the heart may appear to be intact. See, the slow process of erosion blinds a woman to what’s taking place inside her. There’s no huge clanging sound as it happens. Nothing to alert her. No, sometimes a breaking heart doesn’t make a sound. Not to us.
However, imperceptible to human ears, the crack of a human heart resounds in God’s own. He hears it and acts. Because one day, He jars the woman loose. That’s what He did for me a month ago. He cut through layers of numbness so I’d remember my pain. And when I perceived it, I knew I had a problem. That’s step one. Because the first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. See, if it ain’t broke, you can’t fix it. But when you know it’s broke, you have no choice but to do something about it. And when you realize you don’t have the power to fix it on your own, you find yourself turning in a new direction. Inevitably, your broken heart points you to the One who can fix it. To the One who can fix you.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.” Isaiah 61:1