I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear about the broken-hearted and the oppressed (the underprivileged, the downtrodden, the marginalized, etc.) the picture that usually jumps to my mind is a starving orphan in tattered rags, a strung out prostitute on a streetcorner, or a single mom with only sour milk in her refrigerator. And rightfully so.
But over the last few years, I’ve found that picture changing in me, bit by bit. I’ve begun to see that, in some way, everyone is oppressed and broken-hearted.
I haven’t done any extensive research. I’ve only asked, “How are you?” among my own family, friends, and neighbors and then listened to their actual answers.
“Oh fine,” turns into, “My teenage daughter has suddenly become a different person; I feel like I’m losing her.”
“I’m good,” has turned into, “My baby fusses constantly; I’m losing my mind and myself.”
“Fine fine,” becomes, “I just received a cancer diagnosis.”
People are hurting! – no matter what their lives look like on the outside. From among my intimates and all along the margins of my little life, I’ve accidentally, gratefully found a lot of people who feel, often, broken-hearted and oppressed.
Broken-hearted and oppressed people come in all shapes and sizes, with all shapes and sizes of broken-hearted oppression. We all are broken-hearted, if we’ll admit it. We all are oppressed in some way -physically, vocationally, financially, relationally, psychologically, spiritually.
To be human is to be broken-hearted. To be human is to experience oppression.
I have wasted a lot of breath, time, and energy judging who is most broken-hearteded, comparing varying oppressions, and trying to size up which people have been more or less marginalized. I think we all have.
I have also wasted a lot of breath, time and energy on my own private pity parties. I think we all have.
When only certain people with certain problems are allowed to claim oppression and broken-heartedness, we altogether lose some ground on the frontlines of human hope. When we silence others by raising our voices above theirs, we miss out on the compassion that comes from hearing their stories. When we compare our problems with the not-so-bad problems of others, we believe the lie that there is no goodness left in this world: we become atheistic without knowing it. When we insulate ourselves from admitting that we are all at some times and in some ways broken-hearted and oppressed, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to experience the compassionate, full-hearted, steadfast God that is Love.
What if, instead, we could set each other free to share burdens, admit our own needs, and humble ourselves before a God whose heart is especially near to the oppressed, the broken-hearted, and the downtrodden — to each one of us??
What if, instead, we could quietly, humbly bear the weight of the hardship of the persons around us, and what if they could bear ours for us as well? Might that keep the weight of hardship from becoming far too heavy for any one of us to bear? Might we then each be kept from taking the drastic measures that seem to become necessary? And might our prayers, our postures, our very selves — our entire world — be entirely changed in the process?
A girl can dream.