This song was not the next one I had planned, but God works in mysterious ways.
One of my greatest joys as a mom is the ability to be spontaneous because of my children – in this case, my youngest, Michael Francis. Summer 2015 found us taking care of my mom after a serious case of pneumonia. It was a time of grace, healing, and – for Michael – discovery! He already played the saxophone and guitar, but during many hours spent inside that summer, he sat down at the piano and started searching YouTube music channels…and before we knew it, he had discovered yet another talent. And so his piano playing days began.
The idea to record this song began to take shape a few months ago when Michael learned it. I was so grateful to hear Billy Joel music coming from my living room, and thrilled when Michael asked me if I would sing it, accompanied by him. Once we started putting it together, I was inspired to ask him if he would like to go into the recording studio with me. On the evening of Dec. 28, the magic happened with this song.
Truth be told, until I heard Michael playing it, I had forgotten about this song, as well as so many others from the 70’s and 80’s. But as usual, singing the lyrics from my current perspective in life, though a little overwhelming, brings new meaning and far greater depth than hearing it in years past.
Billy Joel wrote this song for a younger woman he was dating, after realizing their relationship would not last. The love and suffering, and perhaps even regret, in his words are unmistakable. But that’s hardly what I hear anymore when I sing these seemingly forlorn lyrics; in fact, far from it! My faith and my relationship with Christ tell me that nothing is doomed; nothing is irredeemable. So when I sing “you can have this heart to break,” it is not coming from a place of brokenness or expectation of failure, but rather from a place of risk.
RISK. The word itself can make us catch our breaths. Risk: what so many of us are afraid of because, in exposing our heart, we open ourselves to the possibility that it just might get broken. Yes, it’s true – risk makes us vulnerable, and that can be a scary thing. But I have learned the risk is so worth its reward! We have a Savior who is in the business of not only mending broken hearts, but putting them back together stronger, more generous, more resilient, more capable of heroic love and patience and, ultimately, more joyful.
If I had posted this reflection in early January, an even deeper translation of the lyrics would be missing from it. Much has happened in the past few weeks. On January 9th, my mother went into the hospital for what would be her final week-long stay there. As I sat with her, physically weak yet mentally and spiritually as alert as ever, I reflected on the words I recorded less than a week and half prior, and I marveled at how my own mother was living out those words in her final days:
“So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break.
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows.”
What greater example is there than one who surrenders herself to the fear of death in her final days and hands her heart over to Christ? Can we be any more vulnerable than that? Of course my mother wanted to be with the Lord, but she loved her life. She did not want to leave us. And so she knew that leaving would not be easy. However, in her peaceful death, I believe in her own way she said to Christ, “you can have this heart to break,” not with sorrow or regret, but with a steadfast awareness of what and who was waiting on the other side.
Is your heart aching? Is your heart broken? Ask Jesus to give you his most merciful heart, especially in your moments of greatest difficulty and vulnerability, and wait to see how it goes!