the Lover

For the past few weeks, my brain hasn’t been able to escape this loop:

Is it brave or stupid to love relentlessly and with your whole self?


I no longer have my usual, instantaneous reply. I’ve always believed that love begets love, but loving people well has repeatedly brought pain for me to bear alone instead.

This defeat and smothering hurt never feels any less intense. It makes me want to be more careful, be less emotional, and not be so quick to trust. But even just thinking about those cautionary actions feels utterly foreign to me. I don’t know how to not do those things; I don’t know how to restrain the most inherent and passionate parts of myself.

And it is here, in this emotional pain and stubborn acceptance, that I’m reminded of how I’ve been made and what I value in myself: the gift and power I’ve been given to love with abandon, recklessly and wholeheartedly at any cost, because it flows naturally from my heart without any real effort on my part.

Ultimately, this love in my heart that causes me all sorts of joys and problems urges me to return back to its Source. The ultimate Love that will forever renew my broken and emotionally-overwhelmed heart. The Love that will never let me go, no matter how many loves I have to let go of myself.

The prophet Jeremiah, paraphrased in the Message version, speaks of the steadfast Lover like this:

“I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again.”

This capacity to love, which I’ve often seen as a burden of oversensitivity and perpetual self-destruction lately, is probably brave and stupid. It often doesn’t logically make sense. But it’s been affirmed repeatedly that I can’t change the way I love people when it is the gift God has given me to make this place feel a little bit more like the Perfect Place God created for us. This capacity to love, sacrifice-filled and all-consuming, is sacred—for it is not an aspect of my human self, but a tiny, tiny part of Jesus’ heart that’s been put into mine. It also means that no matter how many times limited, broken love breaks us, the Lord will restore us, healing the brokenness, and building us up with wholeness and bravery like never before.

The Apostle Paul speaks of the connection between suffering and love like this in the letter to the Romans (ch. 5):

“Let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”


To answer my own personal question, it’s been made clear to me that our gifts to love deeply in a vulnerable, overly-trusting, and often stupid way, exist because of the hopeful hearts that the Lord’s love has created in us. Thus, our hearts expect to find that same love in other people, while we are also bringing God’s love to those people. Whether we are loved the same way in return, despite the suffering, is often irrelevant (except in abusive and traumatic situations–to be clear: we are not called to put ourselves in constant danger, trauma, & mistreatment from others). We’re gonna love and love and keep loving no matter the hurt it might bring to us sometimes, because God’s own love and Spirit is sustaining us and renewing us day by day to live according to our given purpose of radical, true Love.

Thanks be to God for the gift of being able to live loved, for perfect Love casts out all fear and pain and betrayal and injustice and brokenness. What an honor to be given the ability to steward a gift that will never make sense to the rest of the world, but is constantly transforming it in small but significant ways. Thanks be to God. Amen. Amen. Amen.

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on broken promises

This past year has probably been one of the most challenging times in my life, mostly due to a lot change that just kept coming and a lot of heartbreak. I’ve spent a lot of time questioning why I trust and love people as easily as I do, because people are inevitability going to disappoint or hurt me in some way. And it seems broken promises and broken love and broken people often only lead to more brokenness. Other people’s brokenness cause cause them to break our hearts and this can lead to a deadly cycle of suffering surrounding us. These times of disappointment can hurt and shatter our reality, identity, and dreams for ourselves and for other people, which is why forsaken or fractured love stories are truly things worth grieving over. And when you’re the one on the receiving end of all of that pain, it is crushing. It is confusing and overwhelming, and you don’t even know where to begin to pick up all the pieces.

Honestly, my first reaction sometimes is to take those broken pieces that are left of myself and use them to bring pain to the one who hurt me. To cause and to see and to know that we are both mutually hurting and grieving. But I have to eliminate that desire immediately, because I am not here to perpetuate a cycle of pain and brokenness. While it is a very human thing to want to share in suffering with others, we are called to bring radical news of wholeness and Love to this world instead. Rather than hurting those that hurt us, we must stop. We must take time to breathe or step away (or run away as quickly as possible to prevent any further damage). We must do whatever it takes to prevent any further suffering; we must forgive, we must heal, we must love at all costs. No matter how many times other people break their promises, hurt us, or not love us well, we must remind ourselves that we can only control our own actions—how well we want to give to others and how we respond to others’ giving or taking away.

It is an agonizing process, that may first feel like continual suffering, but the only way to heal is to sit and wade through all that is weighing us down. The only way is through; we cannot just simply go around it. Eventually, one day we’ll get to the end of that specific path, possibly without even realizing it. And we will be free to breathe easier and love more and will have forgotten the jagged edges of heartbreak that once plagued us.

With all that being said, lately I haven’t wanted to go through this tough process. I’ve been ignoring it and holding onto things that I don’t need, like anger, resentment, and even nostalgia—all which will eat me alive. I’ve been ignoring all of the emotions I usually feel, because if I truly process and feel those things, it will hurt. Like A LOT. It will hurt too much. But then, I came across these words from Andy Raine of the Northumbria Community. And I think I am maybe once again finding myself in the balancing act of grieving and healing, leaning into all that I am, all that I’m feeling, and all of who I am called to be:

“Do not hurry as you walk with grief; it does not help the journey. Walk slowly, pausing often: do not hurry as you walk with grief. Be not disturbed by memories that come unbidden. Swiftly forgive; and let Christ speak for you unspoken words. Unfinished conversation will be resolved in him. Be not disturbed. Be gentle with the one who walks with grief. If it is you, be gentle with yourself. Swiftly forgive; walk slowly, pausing often. Take time, be gentle as you walk with grief.”

May we walk slowly, forgive swiftly, live gently, and love fully, even in times of heartbreak and healing. Amen.

Peace

I think I may finally have some sort of understanding about peace. A couple of months ago while driving in the rain, I realized just how loud and consuming rain can be. It can be hard to hear anything over it during a storm, which is pretty crazy since it is simply made up of small droplets of water.

But what about when you’re in the car driving through the rain and you drive under an underpass or some trees and the rain suddenly stops beating down on your car? Your ears suddenly realize how deafening the rain had actually been. It feels like a relief for there to be an absence of sound. It sounds, and feels, still. It can be jarring if you’re actually paying attention.

I realized in those three seconds driving under a bridge on the interstate how stillness manifests, how peace manifests, in my life.

Our lives are constantly full of movement and sound, like deafening rain, that distracts us from stillness and oneness with God. Yet, those moments where it’s quiet, whether random or intentional, are the moments of true Peace and Presence—because we are still. It’s those times of silence where we can truly hear ourselves, where can truly hear God and experience peace.

I’m not sure about you, but I realized that as I continued driving, I wanted to drive under more bridges just to experience the sweet silence and relief from the rain. The rest of my life has become like that Sunday morning drive—I’m constantly craving Peace.

It’s those quiet moments with God, whether in the car during some rain or in the morning before the rest of the world wakes up, that define what our days are going to look and feel like. While Peace can be found during the midst of whatever’s going on (whether a literal or figurative storm in our lives), we often can only experience it if we are separated from the distraction of the world.

My summer days are often defined by my looking forward to the next day because it means my favorite time hasn’t happened yet: the morning. Where I will be sitting with God, communing with God, at the beginning of my day over breakfast and coffee and scripture and prayer in stillness, in simplicity, and abandoning the busy world around me. Most importantly, beginning in emptiness waiting to be filled with my daily bread, physically and spiritually, before moving on to begin the day. Sitting with Jesus’ Presence, praying and talking over food every day, like He did with His disciples, has sincerely transformed my life and filled my days with a simple and pure Peace I did not know I was missing.

Peace isn’t about happiness or contentment or the removal of struggle from our lives. Rather, it is about giving space for God’s Presence to actually show up in our lives instead of just looking around or hoping for it. Peace can be found whenever we genuinely seek the Lord and make room for His Presence in our time and our hearts.

yearning

How I yearn for those days that made me feel alive and that all things were new.

Hand-holding and making our way through the crowd, I feel adrenaline finally dilute my anxiety. Your unnecessary kindness quickly wrapping me up in an entanglement of our bodies.

Arms around me, head on your chest, this feels like home. I am blinded by the light that you are giving me, but rather than turning away, I can’t resist moving closer.

This bouquet of flowers, this night under the stars, this music, this kiss, this dance, this gesture, this gift, this, this, this…I cannot leave your side, infatuated and drunk on this feeling of perfection.

When you tell me you love me, I can’t even give a reply, other than with my tears. When I finally tell you I love you in return, you smile larger than I have ever seen before.

How I feel as if I am alive and all things are new.

I continue moving closer to my sun, but you suddenly begin moving away into darkness. Appearing irregularly, becoming my moon and stars instead.

I have to squint to see you for weeks on end. Watching you slowly fade from my sight. Disappearing without a goodbye, without a word, without a thought, without, without, without…

When you set fire to the shelter we built together, you are leaving me with empty hands, broken promises, and an abandoned heart.

That soul of yours…those words of yours…forgotten or misplaced in an instant…

How I yearn for days that make me feel whole and that all things are true.

Silence

You came into my life like a storm.

Taking my breath away, altering everything in your path.

You changed my direction,

Leaving me with empty space to try to fill.

 

Sacrifice after sacrifice…

Isn’t that what lovers do?

Though I’m not so sure we can call ours a love story after all.

 

When your cyclone bent on self-destruction moved on from my life,

I heard Silence for the first time in months.

Here I thought I had been in the eye of your storm, your peace.

Yet, I was being caught up in it and thrown about just like everything else.

 

But now, I am re-learning how to Listen.

 

I cannot apologize for the things I’ve said, not yet,

Because I should’ve said more and said it all louder.

Even after the mess we made,

I wholeheartedly hope for you to find rest someplace.