One of the beautiful things about worship is that it gives us the opportunity to open up our hearts and present ourselves fully to God. But often we are thwarted in our worship because of the stuff we hold in our hearts. The pain of our past. The angst of our present. The longing for a future that doesn’t seem possible.
In January I had the privilege of taking a Proskuneo Team to Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand to carry encouragement to some believers there. One of the things that we took with us to offer our friends was permission to look at their hearts. The activity required very little supplies. A plain piece of paper, a heart shape cut from another piece of paper, some glue sticks, and a willingness to enter in.
In Burma we served at an orphanage. It is not an orphanage as we would normally think of one. Many of these children still have a parent somewhere who could not care for them. The country requires that you belong to a “family list.” So when a child comes to live in this beautiful place, they actually become a part of a new family. This particular family is around 26 strong. The children and young adults are from many different tribes and do not have the same language, but all communicate using Burmese. They are loved and taught the Word of God. They are loved and sent to school. They are loved. Period.
Even still, there are wounds that are carried into this place. And wounds take time to heal. So when we handed out the hearts and said “take some time to talk to God about your broken places,” we opened a door.
We watched and prayed as an eleven year old with an alcoholic dad tore his paper bitterly, letting out all of that brokenness and hurt as he ripped. We wept as an eight year old laid on his face on the floor and poured out his pain. And as they glued their hearts back together Sarah, our artist who was leading the activity, told them they could share some of their broken pieces with someone sitting next to them. What a sacred moment for our team, as children would offer little pieces of torn paper to mix in with ours.
We did the same exercise with the students at the Bible College in Thailand. The college is in a refugee camp. These students have lived through horrific crimes against their families and their souls, and they found comfort in allowing the broken places to be mended. A beginning… not an end. But the beginning brought with it worship that came more freely, and hearts that were more willing to be opened to forgiveness and trust.
As our worship leading class was preparing to lead in chapel the next day, they asked if they could share their “open hearts” in some creative way. In this extremely traditional and conventional place, they stood on the stage and held their journals open toward the congregation as Grace sang “My heart is an open space for You to come and have Your way…”
And then they walked through the aisles showing their hearts pieced back together, while encouraging their fellow students to open their hearts and give God the broken places. It was unprecedented and I am sure some were a little uncomfortable, but these students had rivers of life flowing again in some barren places, and that spilled over to the world around them.
Sometimes all we need is permission to tear paper. Sometimes all we need is permission to be broken.