My Broken Heart
When people say that their heart is broken, typically this is because of grief or tragedy. That is not what I am referring to in this week’s blog.
As I have traveled all over the world in the last 8 years, my heart has broken over and over again, as I have left a trail of pieces of my heart with new friendships all over the planet. People that I spend 1-2 weeks with, but if they lived in my city, we would hang out all the time.
This is one of the untold torments of being an itinerate minister. From my perspective, local pastors are heroes. They are regularly embedded into the lives of their people and make themselves available 24/7. Yet many local pastors have shared with me their dreams to someday travel and speak itinerantly. And this blog is one of the things that I wish people understood about traveling ministry.
Yes, I get to see the world! From planes, airports, rental cars, church meeting windows, and hotels. Yes I have friends all over the world! Friends that I dearly love and long to see more than 3-10 days a year. Yes traveling ministry is glamorous! And it is a brutal grind that chews up its practitioners and spits them out within a few years and there are constantly new ones launching and others being knocked out by life.
I don’t know how others do it, so I will speak for myself only. I have come to understand that as an INFJ (Myers-Briggs personality type), I “extrovert my feeling.” I recently saw a picture of how this works. Although I am a strong introvert (one of my goals in the past was to join a Charismatic Monastery so that I could spend my life in silence reading and praying), when I am on the road connecting with students and leaders, it is like I pull my heart out of my chest and hold it in my hand outstretched in front of me. I share it, until there is no strength left. Then I retract my heart into my chest and go recover my emotional energy. Some people sap that energy much faster than others, but some people I so enjoy sharing my heart with, that I will hold it out for days and days until I am exhausted and have to leave for home. (I also saw the picture as if my heart was slowly getting sunburned and then as I put it back in my chest to recover, I would have friends come and pummel me with “how was your trip, tell me all about it” which feels like having a sunburn poked, it takes time for me to recover to the point of sharing. Also as I share pieces of my heart on the road, I have to rip off a piece and give it away and each tear has to heal after I share another piece.)
Then I spend my flight home trying not to cry. I come home to my ecstatic children and my wonderful wife and I struggle to share my heart regarding the wonderful new friends I made and how much I will miss them until I see them again. Thank God for social media, where it feels like I can continue to stay connected to a degree.
Yet here is the realization. Ministry is heart business. I believe that this is what Kingdom should feel like.
The Apostle Paul talked like this in his letters to his friends:
I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. (2 Corinthians 7:3)
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! (Galatians 4:19-20)
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:7-8)
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Philippians 4:1)
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)
Ministry isn’t just programs or power; it is also passion. Passion for people and relationships.
Don’t call what you are doing “ministry” if it doesn’t involve a deep passionate love for people and your heart regularly being torn and shared with others. If you aren’t experiencing this, then maybe it’s time for rest and recovery, and perhaps healing which is needed for the heart to reopen again.
One of the most stunning things to me is when people email, text or mention in some capacity that I have been a father in their life. When I have thought of “fathering” in the past, I always thought of it though a lens of discipling and being much more involved. I have mentally disqualified myself so many times “how could you be a spiritual father, you aren’t constantly present, you live so far away, etc.” Yet just through living with an open heart and sharing it with people, some have been inspired and some have felt that I am there for them.
I am so honored to be able to walk out my calling and work with the grace on my life. Thank you for valuing my heart and to those that have received from me as a father in your life, I am so humbled that I have blessed you.
All my love,
Dr. Jonathan Welton