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Thursday, December 3, 2015

To Ask the Unthinkable

I prayed today for God to break your heart.

I prayed that request in repentance too. It's not out of bitterness or desire to punish you. Just the opposite (which is so often how God works)--it's out of deep affection and care that I asked him that: to break your heart.

"If I ask wrongly, please forgive me. Forgive me and do not grant my request. Right my prayers. But if breaking that heart is what is needed, to give that heart its greatest desire, I pray for pain."

It sounds awful. I don't want you to hurt. But I had to ask for this, because I see you. I see you wanting something more and being held back from the freedom to go for it. Fear has you constricted. Fear of what? Your fears are not the same as mine. Convention binds you. Propriety? Professionalism? Reputation? Ah... I was there once. I too once thought that being above reproach meant me doing everything right all the time, rather than sinking into the fullness of unquestionable forgiveness and knowing the clean record never was my own in the first place. All his. His record. His grace. His favor and acceptance.

I see you wanting to love, wanting to draw closer to those in your path, and held back. Speaking of intimacy and relationship, and shutting your own thoughts and pain and longing up behind the mask of togetherness, leadership, professionalism. It's a semi-paralysis. Yours is not a circle to widen for others--not yet, though I see you want it to be. It's still a box. Hard, defined edges. Compartments. Roles. Might we call that box a casket of your making? I know you don't mean it to be that way. We all began there, anyway. Ever since that first fall. "Dead in our sins." Boxed up in self-love and self-protection. Can you have that, and your heart's desire too?

I'm afraid to say that most likely, no, you can't.

Loving others is dangerous territory. There's just no way to do it safely. C.S. Lewis wrote of this in The Four Loves:

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness…We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it.What I know about love and believe about love and giving one's heart began in this.

Because I see you, wanting more and holding out at arms' length, I pray for you. Today, my prayers wandered... wandered through my own evaluation, the whys for your sake. And in time, the Spirit brought to mind for me the ones who do it well. Not with polish. Not with programs. Not with regimens. No fanfare. Just authenticity. "Checking on you today." "I hear you." "I get that." Sometimes they curse, because pain requires it. Sometimes they cry because empathy finds another's place and stays awhile. Sometimes they laugh out loud because we're still here. That's all. We're still here, and it's worth a cackle of bewildered triumph. To know, we're oh, so broken. But we're held by him. Greater is he. They don't bring solutions. They don't bring great wisdom or advice. But they know the intimate silence of sitting on the red couch, just being near, sitting, and hurting, speaking softly if needed. Heavy sighs speak volumes for broken hearts. Makrothumia.

Oh, my friend. I see you. And I want your freedom. I want you to be free to love with abandon, not by halves. One thing I have learned, another example of this strange math of our Creator and Redeemer, is completely contrary to expectation: The more broken a heart becomes, the more love pours from it.

I wonder at it myself. Why do I not feel consumed with hatred? Oh, I am so weary of the things of earth--material goods that long ago tarnished and bring no joy, only demand their maintenance. Moth and rust and whatnot. Weary, weary, weary... And there was a time when bitterness sought a foothold. But vengeance is not mine, and over time, that gave way too. It did not take root for long. Instead, he's given me something else with each additional crack. He says the blood of Abel cried to him from the ground. I hear. I hear the groanings. I hear the moans. Wounds that won't close. Hurts everywhere. I didn't always hear. I didn't always see. Sometimes I think it was better that way, but what possible good was I then?

With every heart-breaking loss, another layer gets peeled. It hurts like hell, but he promises, this is all the hell I'll ever know. A little while longer, and we shall all see the Lord. Following every loss, every breaking, the sun sets and rises again, and the grief is still there and that's real. But there's another grain of understanding of what this freedom is. Nothing. Nothing. Listen to it, the inspired words, breathed out by God himself for our encouragement in the face of loss or opposition, or our own fears and doubts that hinder: For I am sure that neither life nor death, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing.

When we break, we bleed greater love. I didn't know this until I experienced it. I see it in others. There is something about a broken heart that requires honesty, and learns to be honest out of that desperate state of nothing left to lose. What is left, cannot be lost.

I see you, not yet fulfilled, for all your very good intentions. I see your heart so full of desire to love openly, that it's about to break itself, but fear holds it in a bit longer. You see, you think right now it is your love to give, and you must mete it out with wisdom and discretion. I know. I know. That's safe. But just as the Lord promises he is near to the broken hearted, to bind up wounds and to pour out lavishly on the undeserving his kindnesses for all eternity, he will be near to you and he will show you his prodigal excess. It's his to give, not yours. Love flowing outward like the river from the temple Ezekiel saw--ankle deep, then knee deep, then waist deep, then deep enough to swim in, and "wherever the river goes, every living creature will live." Live! The promise is for you and for the ones waiting near your own future banks.

I prayed for him to break your heart because I want to see you soar on wings like eagles, unfettered to this demanding ground. I want to see you free from your own self-made constraints to follow the heart that knows the answer to your own passion lies in something richer and deeper and from outside yourself. We have this treasure in jars of clay. Fragile. Breakable. But what is a jar for, but pouring out its contents? Not holding in, sealed--that's useless. Another friend who truly knows what it is to have a broken heart wondered with me about the absences of this intimate closeness in relationship that we all want and can't quite grasp much of the time. "In those days," she reminded, "the love of many will grow cold." I know it's not what you want. And so I prayed, in the Spirit, for whatever it took to prevent that--even pain, if necessary.

I prayed for you to bleed with the boldly brokenhearted. To be freed to love on the other side of fear of loss, equipped to comfort with the comfort by which you yourself will have, then, been comforted.

And just so you know, there's always a seat on the red couch. You know the way.


Anonymous said...

I miss you, old friend. I always love reading your writing, it inspires me. What you write feels meant for me, a lot of the time, and this time especially. I wait impatiently for the time when God will answer my countless request for wisdom like Solomon, and maybe then my life will make sense in part. I think what won't make sense is why you and I are no longer close friends.

--Rebecca said...

We will be friends eternally, Ishmael. But life has a way of happening, and the close part of friendship in this busy, hectic, broken place is something like a delicate orchid: it requires attention, nurture, feeding, sheltering. It isn't like the weeds that flourish out of nothing and spread on their own. The maintenance of the most beautiful things is difficult, and we feel it's lack when we can't keep up. But this is a momentary affliction. Earthbound. It won't always be this way.

--Rebecca said...
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