It’s late afternoon on this December day. I am walking and talking with my beloved Mr. Schrock. A chill breeze blows in my face.
Chuff, chuff, chuff. Our shoes keep a steady beat. Our shadows stretch behind us as the horizon just ahead exerts its magnetic pull, tugging, tugging at the winter sun.
We reach the halfway mark and turn. I glance over. Now our shadows stretch long, long; the only time I am ever tall is when I stand just right in the sun. The day is dying.
My eyes scan the fields, and I think on it again. Beneath each roof, a story. Some of them I know–relational pains beneath that one. A serious medical condition under this one. Oh, how people are hurtin’.
Chuff, chuff, chuff, go the shoes, and my thoughts skip back to the message that came today. “It’s astonishing to me. I think you are the first person I’ve ever known that has such an unwavering dedication to love. Even people who constantly talk about how important love is, don’t actually love with shoes on.”
I hold it in my hands, turning it over and over to see what it evokes in me. Two words land in my heart.
Exhilarated. Of all the girls in the world, how wildly unlikely that this could possibly be true. That I could be here. That I could be what she said, not after what I once knew. For what I once knew was an insular life behind religious walls. What I once knew was suspicion of those who were different; suspicion, mistrust, and judgment. A certain superiority for knowing how to “get it right.” And fear–oh, yes. Fear of catching whatever “they” had, those strange and dangerous outsiders.
Sober. Beside me, my stalwart husband’s still walking. We’ve fallen silent, and I’m thinking on this sobering truth, that love, real Love, is so rare.
In the dying sun, I feel the strangest urge to wail. To raise my voice in grief at the thought that the kind of Love that saves has gone missing.
It’s gone missing, and people are starving and dying. For Love.
One by one by precious, precious one, names and faces appear in my mind. In a dazzling, colorful slideshow of grace, I see them all. In the highways and byways of my life, God has brought them to me. He brought them, and He taught me how to love.
How did God teach me this? Through pain. I will not pretty it up or give you a fancy untruth. It came through suffering and pain.
Here’s what you must know about a broken heart, and pain. If you let God help you put it back together (you are partners here), the strangest thing happens. It’s as though your heart gets knitted back together, healed up with the most amazing elastic that expands and expands and expands. A healed heart is like velvet and steel; it’s a soft place for other broken hearts to land, and it’s steel that defends them fiercely. Kind of like–well, like a mother with her children.
I have both. My velvet, stretchy heart gathers up the lost and lonely. My fire-forged steel heart protects them. One of the ways I do that? By keeping religion away as much as I can, and that means religious people.
It was religion that nearly killed me. It was amazing grace that kept me from rejecting the (g)od I once knew and introduced me to the God I know now. I cannot bear the thought of religion brushing up against fragile souls when it’s Jesus they need, it’s Jesus I know, and it’s Jesus who already knows them.
The broken heart I had? It was worth it because the life I’m living now is abundant.
“Teach me how to love.” It’s a dangerous prayer, but it will open new doors and vistas and adventures you never could script by yourself. A dying world is waiting. Are you ready?