When I sent my beloved, sweet, 15.5 year old dog Jake to heaven early yesterday morning, I had no idea how broken my heart would be after 12 beautiful years of him in my life since his rescue from a life outdoors, unfixed, with no veterinary care, flea/tic prevention, and heart worm disease, but nor did I know that I would discover I have reached a place of a new kind of broken when it comes to my heart. My grief is undeniable, I hurt beyond measure. The bond between us was phenomenal. He followed me right until he could no longer stand and walk, just like I am called to follow my master, Jesus. But what I did not expect was right in the midst of my deep grief, I would discover the raw, genuine, tender, beauty of a broken heart – the right kind of broken.
I have lived a life of countless losses. My family, relatives, and family friends abandoned me when I spoke out about being an incest survivor. I was abandoned by two husbands. I lost my spiritual mentor at 47 years old, my pastor and father-in-Christ unexpectedly, probably at least 25 dogs, friends, relationships, my dreams, and so much more. I know all about grief, but for decades my grief was only that. Just grief. Pure, painful, gut-wrenching grief. Nothing more, nothing less. At last, I have discovered a new kind of grief, a new kind of broken heart. The right kind. The God kind.
While for years I responded to grief with the hardening of my heart, bitterness, anger, walls so thick nobody could get in, not even God, and walls so thick the love inside me couldn’t get out, and while I was so filled with self-pity and so desperate to give up, to get out of the pain, away from the pain, to quit, to anything at all, not so anymore. For I have learned the gift in all this. My broken heart is no longer my pathway to shutting the world out and running away from God’s calling on my life. My broken heart is broken now, finally, and powerfully, broken before the Lord. For I am His.
And every ounce of my broken heart, I have come to believe, can be used by Him. My hope, my desire, my prayer this time around, as I walk through the heart-wrenching grief of the loss of my dog who was more loyal, faithful, dedicated, committed, and loving than any of my family or either husband, is that right in the midst of this incredibly hard place, and all the way through, that the name of the Lord would be exalted and that His name would be glorified. The Bible says God is near to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, and this is exactly where I am. But God is not only near me to comfort me; He is near, and His Spirit in me, that in and through my life He would be made known. Oh, how I desire when people see me, and hear me, that I would not leave behind footprints and fingerprints of human feet and hands. I long that people would through my life see the feet and the hands of the Lord God almighty.
In my brokenness, I am malleable. I am able to be shaped. I am able and open, this time, to the Lord as He pours through me, rushes through me, comes into me, comes through me, replenishes me, ever drenching me with His love, His mercy, His kindness, His forgiveness, His grace, His hope, His trust, His everything beautiful and everything good. Is this all for me alone? It is not. In my brokenness, I have wide open places – no longer shut like I used to become when I grieved, but so wide open. Wide open to the Lord, to be used, to be a vessel, a container, a lamp of His light, of His holiness – that what He pours into me might pour out of me in a waterfall of His forever love to His Creation in such desperate need of Him!
How easy it might be, or it would seem, for me to give up. A life of so much loss, so many challenges, my story never seems to end when it comes to hard stuff. But oh what joy I have now, yes, even in the mist of my pain, because through it all I have come to know the love of the Lord, to know the Lord intimately, personally, so deeply, so brilliantly, that I can hear His voice, hear His song, hear His heart, hear His love, sense Him here, sense Him near. He is my heart. Yes, even as the world continues to rush by. Even as life goes on. Even as more grief comes my way, even as I walk from room to room in my house and keep coming back to the room where my sweet Jake spent all of his time. Even in all of this, and even in all my other losses, and even in all that I wanted and never had, or had and lost, even in it all, no matter the circumstances, no matter any of it at all, I have come to know Christ.
I cannot help but think of just a few weeks ago when I came into my bedroom and found Jake with his paw on the open pages of my Bible. Shortly after, he rested his nose down on the Bible. Just below his nose, I found underlined these words: “Enter into the joy of your master.” And as much as it spoke to me of how Jake loved to be in my presence as his rescuer and master, how above all else it speaks to me of this. My joy is in my master. My joy is in my Christ. Even in the midst of this grief. Even in the midst of the loss.
My broken heart is not the broken heart it once was. I am broken before my Lord. My heart, even as it cries, is full of thanksgiving. I am thankful for all the years God gave me with my Jake, and my beloved Red whom I lost months ago, and all the others, and for the life I have had – as hard as it has been. For at the end of the day, despite all that I have lost, I have gained the most precious of all. I have a breathtakingly phenomenal relationship Christ. I have my Lord!
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18 NASB
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ – Matthew 25:21 NASB