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So I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how much of our pain comes from relationships with people we love. A real bummer, right? But stick with me - there’s usually good news by the end.
I don’t think anyone is exempt. I have simply never met and gotten to know anyone, even fairly well, who has not experienced the soul-searing pain of being misunderstood, betrayed, left, or otherwise hurt by someone s/he loved deeply. We all have those stories. Some of them are real heart-breakers.
And I think it is inevitable that the questions would arise, “Why bother to love anyone? Why invest heart and soul into relationships with the potential to cause so much pain?” I may not be able to answer these questions for everyone, but I can share the answers I’ve come up with, for me:
1. We were born to be loving, so living with our hearts surrounded by armor is unnatural. I truly believe that one of the ways in which we are created in God’s image is the fact that we are social beings, with an innate need to give and receive love. So, while it is certainly possible to choose to prioritize “self-protection” over keeping an open heart, I believe that choice robs us of fulfillment of all we were created to be.
2. If we stop loving, the Enemy wins. I am growing into a deeper understanding of what spiritual warfare means - to me, anyway. Our most important fights really aren’t against flesh and blood. Because whatever the issues, wins, and losses may be in the natural/material realm of things, the wins and losses that matter the most are those that take place in the spiritual realm. For example: Let’s say Lee and Pat go through a bad break-up and Lee takes off with most of their most valuable possessions and leaves behind all of their bills for Pat to pay. In the natural/material realm of things, Pat has suffered substantial losses, and I am not minimizing them at all. Nonetheless, it would be an even greater loss if the experience would lead him/her to close his/her heart and resolve never to love and trust again.
I’ve come to believe that there are material/natural “layers” and spiritual “layers” to our most significant experiences, and this certainly includes the experience of being hurt by loved ones. Whatever happens in the material/natural realm, we have a choice and a responsibility to ourselves not to allow it to infect our spirit and change us in negative ways. There’s a line in an Earth Wind and Fire song that says, “Child is born, with a heart of gold; the way of the world makes his heart grow cold.” That is the tragedy I am urging us not to allow in our lives. If we do, then in the spiritual realm of things, at that layer where the fight is not against flesh and blood, the Enemy wins.
3. The pay-off for keeping an open heart is worth the pain. In my mind, I imagine a broken heart healing in a way that is similar to how bone fractures heal. Without going too “medicalese” on you, the very simplistic explanation is that fractured bones immediately start producing material that eventually hardens and fills in the cracks and broken places. Assuming that the bone is set correctly, this process results in restoration of a whole, and sometimes stronger, bone. And if our hearts are “set” correctly, focused on God and God’s will for us, and determined to be faithful in being who we were created to be, those cracks and breaks will generate new material to fill themselves in. And the result will be a larger, stronger heart with more capacity to love, not less.
Now there are some injuries that don’t merely crack or break bones. Some injuries can shatter them. The same can be said of our hearts. For those injuries, I turn to the Divine Potter. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah envisioned as God as a potter, and us as clay. They spoke of God’s ability to mold us, and repair us, and even take the same broken pieces of clay and make a brand new vessel of it. God can do that with our broken hearts, too. And God will.
At the end of the journey, we will look back and all of us, probably, will have stories about having loved and lost, about abandonment, betrayal, and rejection. But, if we have remained faithful to being the loving people we were created to be, we will also be able to look around and see those whose lives have been enriched by our choice to keep open hearts. We will see those who have loved us faithfully, consistently, and well. And we will know that the bonds that we have with these people run deeper than any pain we’ve suffered; and cannot be broken, even by death.
And that, Beloved, is as good as good news ever gets.