Chasing Heartbreak

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- Tamara Park

I’m about to get my heart broken. Again.

I know it’s going to happen. It’s a perfect set-up. But I can’t resist packing my bags and jetting off toward it. 

In a short time I strike out for Thailand and Cambodia. While there I will be capturing stories on the sexual exploitation of minors for a television series called Tainted Love. I plan to interview survivors of trafficking and perhaps a predator and pimp or two. 

I’m sure to see scenes that I’ll desperately want to shield my eyes from; I’ll meet people that might send me in a rage; and I’ll speak with others that I may want to collect and take home. 

But the draw to go feels irresistible. 

Have you ever chased heartbreak? Maybe you pursued the love of your life, a dream job or an artistic or altruistic endeavor. You risked disappointment, rejection, anguish, perhaps even humiliation. Are you glad you went for it? 

So often our stories don’t have Hollywood endings, but I can’t help but believe that heartbreak has its benefits. 

I grew up in a family who always seemed to be sprinting after those in heartbreaking situations. For a time every Sunday my family went to local prison camp; there we’d pick up a prisoner and take him to church and lunch. On occasion, my dad would whisper to my brother and I, “Don’t tell your mother, but this guy was a murderer.” We also had pregnant girls and detoxing drug-addicts live with us every once in while. People with complicated stories and often loads of hardscrabble wisdom moved in and out of our lives. These men and women, who often were labeled as statistics in our society, made me ask new and different questions, and simply enriched my life with their presence. 

As I’ve grown up I’ve lost my breath occasionally and gotten side pains running after people and places that make my heart crumble into pieces. I lived in Jerusalem during a time of intense conflict. I have visited the slums of Kibera, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the streets of Port au Prince. All this chasing after heartbreak has been a gift. But honestly, I haven’t stopped long and hard to consider why I do it. 

This coming trip feels different. Harder. I imagine I’m going to encounter scenes more crushing to human dignity than I’ve ever seen--children degraded in ways I haven’t wanted to think about; and people overtaken by addictions more blatant than I’ve known. 

Working on this TV series on sex-trafficking in the US has struck at my heart in personal and painful ways. As I’ve grieved for the young women I’ve interviewed, who have had their sense of being truly loved stolen from them, I’ve had to face down some hard emotions of my own.  I never expected to find myself still single at 41, with a deep longing for intimacy. Their pain spotlights my own. 

So the inevitability of a more piercing heartbreak halts me in my steps. Why should I chase it? Why should any of us chase it?

I’d like to share with you my Top Ten Reasons to Chase Heartbreak in the hopes that it has you thinking about your own reasons. 

Ten Reasons to Chase Heartbreak

10.It has a way of keeping me alive. Hearts don’t last long detached. I believe we’re holistic beings—body, mind, heart and spirit. When I engage others out of the whole of who I am (even if it means risking heartbreak), I believe I get to live more deeply into my God-designed humanity.  

9. I discover everyone has a story to tell.  When I risk entering into the heartbreak of others I’m reminded that people’s stories—their very lives—are of great worth. 

8.The world gets set aright. When I spy out hope in places cracked open by conflict and pain, my view of the world gets reoriented. I get a glimpse of its original design. 

7. I experience the power of bearing witness. When I come alongside those hurting, and listen to their stories, I’m saying, “Your pain matters. You are seen, and heard. I bear witness.”

6. I can be a voice for the voiceless. When I not only listen but also speak up, I engage in the work of the wise and powerful.  “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8.

5. It heals my heart. As I’ve sensed God’s great love and compassion for those in pain, especially those trafficked, hope for my own heart has been buoyed. 

4. Ibecome connectedto all of humanity. We all experience loneliness and loss. We’re all trying to make our way back to Eden. I feel closer to Paradise when I move closer to others. 

3.I get closer to God and a larger picture of who He is. During Jesus’ pilgrimage on earth He made it clear that He was close to the brokenhearted. As I come close to them too, I find myself seated near God. And I get to see a God who Rescues, a God who weeps over the innocence of children and a Mighty Warrior who busts into brothels.

2. I see vivid pictures of the Gospel. As I’ve heard the stories of young girls—and guys—who have experienced the hell of abuse and exploitation, and then find out how they’ve been rescued, and then hear them be a strong advocate for others…the Gospel takes color and shape like I’ve never seen it. 

1. Ultimately chasing heartbreak makes my heart grow. My life has been so enriched by the friendships formed with those who have experienced profound pain, especially survivors of trafficking, my heart can’t help but grow—stronger, larger, and more whole. 

Yes, I believe chasing heartbreak increases our capacity to love and be loved. I’d truly like to hear your Top Ten list. You can email me yours at tamarapark@mac.com. And as you contemplate why you chase heartbreak…here’s a Franciscan Prayer for you. 

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships

So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger

At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,

so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears

To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,

So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and

To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness

To believe that you can make a difference in the world,

So that you can do what others claim cannot be done

To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen.

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I am one of the producers of a TV series called Tainted Love for Halogen. I'm slightly infatuated with trekking across the globe and hearing people's stories. Oh, a couple of years ago I authored a book called Sacred Encounters from Rome to Jerusalem. And despite a combative relationship with rhythm and dodgy motor-skills, I dance and run.