July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:06 PM
"Unto a broken heart, no other one may go.Without the high prerogative, itself hath suffered too.- Emily Dickinson, 1864It was during my sophomore year in college that I first met Emily Dickinson. I did not actually meet her, of course, for she died in the 1800s. But I did and do continue to meet her in wonderful ways through her writing. In fact, her masterful words give us a peek into the deepest themes surrounding the human experience and I treasure the year I studied Emily Dickinson's life and the writings she produced in response to her experiences.I was drawn initially to her deep and brooding words by a marvelous professor who had spent a good portion of his adult life researching, teaching and writing about this one-of-a-kind American poet. This week I found myself drawn to her unforgettable thoughts on the broken hearted because I felt my own heart break several times this week. And right along with these ever so broken-hearted feelings has come an astonishing discovery: a suffering heart can be a strange and welcome bedfellow.Sound impossible? I can see why, for I once believed that if I felt happy, if stress was kept at bay, and if I rid even the deep reaches of my mind of any sadness, these were signals that my life was going well. Success, it seemed, came wrapped only in good feelings.I no longer believe this. I believe, instead, that feeling broken hearted can be an acceptable condition. We will live through the experience. We will recover ever stronger if we allow God to interplay in the experience. We will learn to live deeply satisfying lives with a heart that occasionally feels like it is breaking in two.Early in my life I began realizing that any number of things seemed to etch fractures into my heart. I had a happy and secure childhood I am thankful to say, so my heart did not break out of victimization. My heart began breaking in response to life, as I perceived it. As I grew in my ability to self reflect, I came to understand that God had wired me this way with good reason and full intention.It was a struggle, however, for a good number of years. While I enjoyed an optimistic and energetic approach to my life, I experienced moments each day - never the same from one day to the next - where I simply hurt. I would hurt for the world, for my friends and family members struggling with one problem or another, for injustice, for famine, war, and disease, and for myself. I learned not to dwell on the pain but I also learned I could not avoid or ignore it. I would feel it deeply and then respond in some way.When Robert Kennedy was assassinated I felt terribly sorry for the daughter closest to my age. I wrote her a letter and she responded with a card, thanking me for my sympathy. I still have the card.My heart broke this week as I watched battle scenes during a Veterans Day memorial service. I thought of my friend Barbara who watched her young brother, so many years ago now, pack off to war - never to return.My heart broke this week when a young friend of mine talked about his life in the foster care system and what it feels like to have a mother who can no longer care for him. It hurts and frustrates me to regularly face such enormous sadness without a way to step in and wipe it all away.Each and every time I feel my heart breaking I have learned to take a deep breath and ask God to move right in. Right there at the very spot where it hurts the most and at the moment when I search frantically for comforting and helpful words. Right there when the immensity of the problem demands a heavenly source of hope and energy and strength because I cannot possibly respond with my own personal reserves. They are simply not good enough.I not longer long for a carefree life with a fully intact heart, for I know I would cease to grow if I were content with all aspects of my life. There is sweet solace knowing I will grow strongest when the fire is hot and the despair immense; when I can experience the myriad of ways God's love empowers and strengthens me - along with all who ask.God will forever be the great mender of hearts. We are not alone. ------------Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and former editor of Christian books published by Gospel Light Publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. "