My Bleeding Heart

Years ago, I had a conversation with someone who told me a little bit about his childhood. He told me that as a little boy, he had been given an unbelievable ability to feel the pain of others–to love in a grand way. He decided, at a young age, that it was a super-power. That at birth, he must have been given the ability to love others harder and deeper. It was a side conversation that took place long ago over a fireside chat, but something about it stuck with me. Sometimes I feel like that little boy, burdened with the pain of others. Culture shapes us to be resilient; Christ calls us to compassion. Instead of using my empathy to drive me towards action, it’s often easier to bandage those hurting places in my heart. If I’m not careful though, I can bind my heart so tightly that I feel nothing at all. And really, it is a beautiful exchange–to feel the pain and joy of another.

On my morning commute last week, as I reflected upon some recent interactions with the Nashville homeless community, I began to hear this phrase over and over in my head: Bleed, heart bleed. Call it a prayer or confession. Call it a poem. This is what emerged.

I once knew
a boy who spoke into the night.
Light, spitting fiery embers with confessions
and humble ambitions.

He believed
some are just
born with bleeding hearts. We feel
the weight of a wrecking,
wronged humanity.

His words, whispered, stayed
like the smell of
burnt bark, stayed
in strands of hair unkempt, coiled,
disheveled at the nape of
my neck, brown.

Clung, like poverty clings
to my hand, hallowed for holding
the son of a woman who borrows
soil in the night to lay
her head, heavy. Who’s holy heart
bleeds for her?

Haunting, a graying man, dark
gums grinning mutters,
“you are
an angel,” grabbing
my hands in his. Hands,
exchanging pages,
enlightening, for a generous Lincoln and
a “God bless you.”
Is grace not more
costly? Remember, “it was
pride that changed
angels into devils.”

We feel
the weight of a wrecking,
wronged humanity. Let us not
bandage or bind
wounds or bruises. O Maker, enlighten dark corners
of this dwelling, neglected.

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