The Ministry of Heartbreak
Thanks to Young Life, hanging out with high school girls is like breathing air for me— it happens subconsciously.
There are several passions in my life in which I feel truly alive. Being outdoors is one, immersing myself in Latin American culture is another, and discipling teenaged girls is certainly another. I feel so closely aligned to the Father’s heart when I engage in these blessings. It’s just like a breath— perfectly natural.
What hasn’t been natural for me though, was allowing my heart to break for my sweet girls. Throughout the years leading up to the opportunity to lead Young Life, there was a constant prayer on my heart— that He would let "my heart break for what breaks His." I prayed this in general terms, but as soon as I began leading Young Life, this prayer was given new meaning.
I quickly fell head over heels for the special group of high school girls that I was blessed to hang out with. I know they have their flaws, but I think they are absolutely beautiful inside and out, just as God made them. Because of their amazing hearts, slightly inappropriate sense of humor, and curious spirits, I have never for a moment felt like I was “doing ministry." I’ve just been “doing life" with them.
What people don’t tell you about high school ministry— or probably any kind of ministry for that matter— is how heartbreaking it truly is. It hurts like heck. But that was an answer to that same prayer that started years ago. I asked for Him to "break my heart for what breaks His,” and He most certainly did. Shattered it.
I distinctly remember one day in particular (although there are countless of these days) that I came completely undone. I had spent the afternoon with two of my girls, one who is following Christ, one who is searching.
I had been praying for this one to open up to me more, and on this day the door finally opened. This sweet girl gushed about her struggle with drug addiction and depression, getting kicked out of her home, floating from friends’ houses to guys’ houses to her grandparents’. I felt a physical pain in my chest, a certain heaviness, as I listened to her reveal the dark underbelly of life as a high schooler. Her words, stories of how the world has hurt her, chiseled away at my heart.
He must feel like that too. That ache deep inside for one of His own.
As I pulled away from the Starbucks parking lot and got on to the freeway to head home, I lost it. My lap was quickly soaked with falling tears. I cried out to the Father for her. I desperately wanted her to accept His love, and for Him to heal her.
He promises me in Psalm 56:8 that He catches all my tears in a jar, every last one. And I know that those tears will not be in vain, because I asked for His heart and He willingly transplanted it. Our tears are one and the same.
If I’ve learned anything in my short time in ministry, it’s these two pieces of knowledge.
1) Keep praying that prayer for your heart to be broken, just as His does. Your “ministry” will fall flat if you don’t open yourself up wide. You will become complacent, bored, or burned-out if you don’t align your heart with the Father’s heart.
The only way we can forge a lasting bond with others is to jump into the mess with them, not just stare from a distance. And yes, it hurts. But "darkness is as light" to Him, and it will be for us too if we trust in His heart for His children. That is the beautiful mystery of becoming closer to Christ— the more we invite in the brokenness of the world, the more we will know Him in all His glory.
2) Keep tightly tucked into Jesus. The Word of God is the only weapon against utter despair. I’ve seen some horrific, dark things unfold in the lives of my girls— things that keep me up at night, things that make me sick to my stomach and leave me crying in my car. The absolute only thing that keeps me charging into the trenches is the promises that the Lord has forged as my armor.
His mercies are new each morning.
Call on Him in a day of trouble; He will deliver you.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.
And many more.
I want to believe these are true.
I have to believe these are true.
And we must proclaim that these are true for others, like my girl who’s lost in addiction. We must hide our whole selves in the comfort of this blessed assurance. Without these promises, we would be going into battle with no fortified protection. The enemy has no chance in heaven or hell if we equip ourselves with the impenetrable shield of His promises.
The only way to survive is to have not our own heart, which is mortal and prone to crack, but to have the heart of our Father. His heart may be resilient to the beatings and lashings of this mad world, but He still chooses to wade through the grime with us. After all, He is Immanuel. His presence is the only thing that can sustain us.
So here’s my fair warning, friends. Don’t do ministry— you’ll get your heart broken in big ways. But, do do ministry— because His promises will become all the more real— in bigger ways.