Living with a Bruised Heart

I dedicated him to God when he was a chubby little bundle of joy. I helped him pray to invite Jesus into his little heart when he was waist high to me. I stood in the waters of the baptistry and prayed over him before lowering him into those waters. I watched him grow to love DC Talk and other Christian bands when he was a teenager. And then I watched him walk away from the faith of his youth. He no longer considers himself a Christian.

His mother, grandparents, and I pray for him very nearly every day. For parents are only as happy as their saddest child.

But what do I do?

Pray, that’s what I do. Pray. And weep.

As I sit here looking out at the morning sun splashing Mount Princeton a rosy pink from my mountain home, I am seeing faces that make my heart grow sad. Not just my own children, but I see the faces of congregants; people who are trying so hard to find their way in this world without Jesus. Oh, they come to church. Some come regularly, some intermittently but they are in my flock, and I am their shepherd. And while I am delighted with our church family and I am at peace with Jesus, I am also very aware that my sense of melancholy is tied to the saddest member of my church.

I am careful about boundaries. I am quite willing to let people feel the full weight of the consequences of their sins. These consequences can be their best tutors. But, oh this weight, this cloud, this dull and throbbing ache for the people for whom I have been given charge is relentless.

When I was a young man, Anwar Sadat was president of Egypt. He was in the news a lot due to the complications of the Arab and Israel conflict. He had a small dark spot high on his forehead. I asked my father what that was, and he said it was a perpetual prayer bruise. Said that Sadat knelt and faced Mecca five times every single day and touched his forehead to the ground in prayer to Allah. It was a bruise that never went away because of his devotion.

The longer I live and the more I work caring for the souls of pastors, I have come to believe that pastors who are faithful to be present to the people in their communities are going to have bruises on their hearts. Those bruises will come from criticisms, misunderstandings, betrayals, and sometimes the meanness that sheep have towards their shepherds.

But what do I do? Pray, that’s what I do. Pray. And weep.

Matthew tells us that Jesus felt this heaviness, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

The Apostle Paul commands all Christians to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  (Galatians 6:4)

I wonder if this sadness is part of bearing the burden. I wonder if, in bearing, we are more present. I wonder if being more present with them leaves open the opportunity to run to them when they “come to themselves” and realize all that is waiting for them in the Father’s house. 

But what do I do? Pray, that’s what I do. Pray. And weep.

I believe this sadness keeps a father on the front porch looking down a long and dusty road for a broken and sad boy to come walking home. And when he sees the familiar stride of his child, to be quick to leap off the porch and run down the road to embrace his son. And it is this sadness that makes a pastor stand on the porch of a little church every Sunday morning looking at a parking lot for that troubled family to drive up.

So, I wait, watch, and pray—ready to run to both my son and you.

For I am a pastor and I am learning to live with a bruised heart.

About Joe Chambers

I am the beloved of the Most High God. I am an avid reader and writer and have been a continuous learner since my college studies in Ancient Literature and English. I live at the base of Mount Princeton in the Colorado Rockies with my wife of over three decades. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home. I am the father of three sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. I love to read, tell stories, and spend time in the wilderness.
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3 Responses to Living with a Bruised Heart

  1. maryrinden says:

    Thank you for your insightful writing on living with a bruised heart! Caring about others can certainly leave bruises! It is a holy calling for Christ followers! I can relate to the praying and weeping!

    Keep pastoring and loving your flock! 🙏

  2. Ken Pierpont says:

    That is as beautiful as it is bittersweet. Thank you. I know you will keep watching the horizon in the direction of the “far country…” May God allow you to throw a party one day here or on the other shore one day. Your pastoral writing is a blessing to my bruised heart this Monday morning. -Pastor Ken

  3. joycemoyerhostetter says:

    This reminds me to pray for you, your boy, your sheep and some others too. Bless you!

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