“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51
A broken spirit. That moment when you finally come to grips with the ugliest truths about yourself, and it causes unspeakable pain and remorse. You have no more defense. Self-justification is over. You collapse, inwardly and outwardly. It is a “rock-bottom” moment.
The Church prays this Psalm regularly as a normal part of her liturgical life. Apparently, this experience is to be part of the normal fabric and ecosystem of our faith.
I would certainly like it to be a more normal part of mine. It occurs to me – I think that if I more often felt genuine sorrow, I would more often also feel genuine joy. Our emotional being, after all, cannot be compartmentalized. Each peculiarly human emotion is cut from the same cloth. If I cut the nerve of sorrow, I will also, inevitably, and with horrific consequences, cut the nerve of joy. For to cut the nerve of sorrow is to deliberately choose emotional blindness to the Good, and my distance from it. If I do this, if I separate myself so thoroughly from the Good, how could I ever sing, shout, dance, rejoice?
I cannot. And so it is that my spiritual life is often a shapeless gray.
I don’t want that. I want sharp edges, bright colors of sorrow and joy… ruby reds of grief, sapphires of love, deep contrition and white-hot righteous indignation. I want to wail from the pit of my stomach and love with every ounce of who I am. I want to grieve with the grieved – REALLY feeling their pain – and then, from their sorrow summon within myself the energy and voice to denounce the powerful and self-satisfied, by whom they were aggrieved.
We are told that the work of the Spirit in us is to replace “the heart of stone” and turn it into a “heart of flesh” – that is, the dead, lifeless heart is replaced with a heart that is alive, and sensitive. It is a heart that can feel. It is a genuinely human heart, and only when the heart is alive can we really have a life. IF that is true–that the Spirit has given this heart to me–then I think the quest is to figure out how to clear away the clutter, exposing the core, making possible both sorrow and joy. Making genuine humanness possible. Not in dull, shapeless grays. But in straight lines, hard edges, and bright colors, bursting into the darkness from eternity.