I Kissed Self-Preservation Goodbye

He told me it wasn’t my job to worry about him, but I’d long ago decided that I am my brother’s keeper.

She told me it’s okay to be friends as long as I don’t get emotionally attached, and I ask myself how that’s possible.

There’s a reason my mama named me “Devoted.”
And it’s not so I could offer my friends half-hearted affection.

Let’s pretend, shall we? Let’s pretend to care about each other until the going gets tough and we backpedal through our promises in the name of Self-Preservation.

Self-Preservation. I hate her. If Tragedy walking down the hall makes me cringe, Self-Preservation makes me grit my teeth, clench my fists, and say a prayer that I refrain from slapping her phony smile right off her face.

Because Tragedy may hurt, but she draws people together in a way that comforts and heals. At least, until Self-Preservation walks in. “It’s not your fight,” she says. “It’s messy and dirty and uncomfortable here. Let’s just walk away. Let’s just walk away before all of this becomes too much for this heart to handle.”

And we think we’re doing the right thing, listening to her. It’s the best thing for us, we reason. Because who wants to be burdened with all that heartache and despair?

So we plug our ears and walk away, hoping to forget the cries of the world.

But baby, baby, I hear you.

I hear the way your heart splinters into a thousand pieces.

Self-Preservation doesn’t care. She’s not going to rock you and hold you and wipe away your tears. Instead, she’ll tell you to get up and keep going and forget about this mess. And, yes, there’s a time for packing up and moving on, but you’ve got to pick up the pieces first.

Give yourself time to pick up all the pieces.
We wouldn’t want any fragments of you lost down this road.

Tragedy ripped through your world like a whirlwind, and, baby, it hurt like nobody’s business, but you’re going to be okay.

Yes, you’ll be just fine as long as you’re not looking to be preserved. Because maybe you weren’t meant to maintain your original or existing shape. Maybe you were meant to change with the seasons. Maybe you were meant to be remade and redefined.

Self-Preservation doesn’t encourage that in you. Self-Preservation tries to cling to the things that were. But, baby, those things simply aren’t anymore. There’s nothing you can do about that. I’m sorry if that’s not the way you wanted it, but, sweetheart, that’s the way it is. And that’s okay.

Change is a good thing, honest. Change is a requirement of growth. And trust you me, there is nothing more tragic than when a being stops growing. Stops becoming everything it was meant to become.

A friend told me that the enemy traps women through their emotions, but I think he traps us through our lack of emotions, too. And I believe the latter trap is far more deadly than the first.

So I said goodbye to Self-Preservation and made Sorrow and Heartache my friends. And maybe it’s morbid to say I love the way they make me feel, but I do. I do because they make me feel where Self-Preservation offered nothing but numbness.

But God is good and life is beautiful and pain is not all I feel.

Oh no, pain is a mere side effect of love. And love is so much bigger than pain. Love makes all the pain worth it.

So I don’t care. I don’t care if it defies the laws of self-preservation; I’m always going to love you this big.

Because you’re worth it.

Every single moment of loving you is worth it. In both the good times and the bad.

And maybe it’s true that you’ll only break my heart. Everyone tells me I shouldn’t be okay with that, but, darling, I am. I’m okay to be ripped apart, shredded open, and ravaged to pieces by you.

Because I think someone should care that much. And I think someone should love you that deeply. And I’ve never been good at giving anything less than everything.

So maybe it’s my own form of self-preservation—to love you with all that I am.

(So go ahead and rip my heart apart. Send an email to beyondwaiting@yahoo.com and tell me how you’re really doing. I want to know your story, I’m willing to enter your tragedy, and I promise to send a little love your way in response.)

Heart Cracked Open

I’ve been emotionally wrecked. From the seemingly trivial losing one of my favorite students to another school, to the deeply personal things God is working out inside of me, to being powerless to keep my friends from making decisions that are wrecking their lives, there’s been a lot going on in this heart of mine.

While preparing to start my day the other morning, I boldly (and foolishly) challenged Life, “What else have you got for me?”

Moments later I came across a message informing me that a missionary friend’s 16-year-old son was killed in a motorbike accident.

Dear God, will it never end?

Tragedy and I communicate on a first name basis. Oh, I wouldn’t say we’re friends. She’s more like that person who makes me cringe when I see her coming down the hall because I know we’re going to have a long conversation that I don’t want any part in.

“Hey, Tragedy, how’s it going?”

“Oh, you know. Just wrecking lives and stuff.”

And by the end of our conversation, I feel tired all over. But I think the thing I hate most about Tragedy is that she makes me feel so insufficient. Because, as I’ve said before, my arms aren’t big enough to cradle the whole world all at once. And this world has wounds that are bigger than I am. And superglue may work just fine for busted heads, but it doesn’t do a whole lot of good when it comes to broken hearts.

I don’t know what to do with broken hearts. I may be able to sweep up all the pieces, but I guess I’m not good enough at puzzles to figure out how to put them back together. And I wish with every fiber of my being that I could put them back together. But all I have to offer a broken heart is my own heart breaking in response.

I feel like I’ve spent the last few days falling on my knees and saying, “Okay, God, here’s my heart cracked open. Do with it what You will.”

And I know that He will.

I know that God is big enough to restore even the most broken of hearts.

So I think I’ll tell myself the same thing I told myself when I lost Maggie five months ago:

There’s still Someone who can make sense of the pieces where others have failed.

There is a God who makes beautiful things from broken things.

And that is the knowledge I cling to when the world rocks crazy and my heart lies in fragments on the floor.

Yes, I still believe in a God who redeems the messes we’ve made of our lives. I still believe in a God who accepts the sacrifice of a broken heart. And I still believe that these paths paved with heartache are ultimately the best thing for me.

So here I stand with heart cracked open, fully and finally alive.

 

The Miracle of Unbreaking

If there’s one thing I’ve learned with certainty in the twenty-one years I’ve walked this earth, it’s that my world is broken. And my greatest fear in this moment is that you may be broken, too.

I know far too many people who have been crushed by the weight of this world. Sometimes I look at the pieces of their shattered lives and nearly fall into despair. Because there behind the haunted eyes, I see a trace of a girl I used to know. And I remember that she was all smiles and potential then. Now she has a past with the potential to drag her down as she drinks of a sorrow so deep it only leaves her empty.

But somewhere beneath the pain and the lies, her true value remains. She’s every bit as beautiful as she was five years ago… only a little less innocent.

And I know that when she looks at her life, she doesn’t see what I see. She doesn’t see the potential that remains in the depths of her soul, begging for release. No, what she sees is a disaster—a disaster so overwhelming, it leaves no room for believing in starting over and second chances and a God who makes all things new.

Because she’s broken.
And I… I don’t just want to fix her. I want to unbreak her. I want to restore the life and beauty that once was.

If I even half believed she would hear me, I’d tell her that the potential is still there. That life is still fresh and bright and beautiful on the other side of the darkness. But her ears are closed to me right now. They’re closed to hope and faith and the impossible things that are made possible through the God of impossibilities.

If I could rewind time, I would go back to the place where she was still impressionable—back to the place where a word I said might have made all the difference—and I would say all those things that I forgot to mention. I would breathe hope and instill courage and whisper syllables of impossible dreams fulfilled.

I would unbreak her.
I would keep her from falling or at least be there to catch her when the ground shifted from underneath her feet.

But I don’t have a time machine, though I am still a firm believer in second chances. So maybe my second chance comes in the form of someone else.

Maybe my second chance is you.

And maybe these are exactly the words you needed to hear at exactly this moment.

Maybe this is the start of your unbreaking.

And maybe there are others who are still waiting to be unbroken. So I’ll look for the girl with the starry-eyes—the one with impressionable innocence that screams of potential—and I’ll take her by the hand and walk with her into the life my first friend forfeited. Because if I couldn’t keep her from falling, maybe I will have at least learned to catch someone else.

And maybe it’s not too late to be part of the miracle of unbreaking.

Stories

In the words of one of my favorite authors: “I love how irreverent Jesus is in His stories. He compared Himself to a chicken, the coming of God’s Kingdom to a robber breaking into your house, God’s message of hope to an uncorked bottle of wine, and prayer to a nagging neighbor hungry for a sandwich at midnight. According to Jesus, we can learn about God’s Kingdom from eccentric landowners, dishonest managers, idiots who built condos on quicksand, demon-possessed do-gooders, a warm loaf of bread, a field full of weeds, and a little kid tugging at your pants leg asking you to come outside and play. The Kingdom of Heaven unfurled from His lips in story after story after story.”

On that note, let me tell you a story…

Her name was Lily and she was absolutely adorable. I sat, watching her play happily in the nursery. At one point, she leaned into a toy box to get something. As she leaned farther and farther in, it became apparent to me that she was going to crack her head on the table when she stood back up. I jumped to my feet, hoping to slide my hand into a position that would cushion the impact. “Lily, wait. Don’t stand up or you’ll get…”

CRACK!

“Hurt,” I winced, wishing I had moved more quickly. “Owie,” I said, placing my hand on her head. “Lily, honey, are you alright?”

At first I thought she would fall into my arms or maybe run to her mother for comfort. For a moment I even thought that she would brush it off like nothing had even happened. What I wasn’t expecting was the look of betrayal that crossed her face as she glared at me accusingly. One second of looking into those angry blue eyes was enough to tell me that she thought I was the source of her pain. Her nineteen-month-old brain couldn’t comprehend that her pain had been caused by her own mistake.

She screamed and ran to her grandma, and I briefly explained what had happened. At that moment, her father walked up, egging her on. “Aw,” he cooed. “What did that mean girl do to you? Did she hurt you? Rebekah’s so bad. Poor Lily.”

As she buried her face in her father’s shoulder, I stood in the nursery, hoping she would eventually forgive me for the pain I had tried to prevent.

I think it is somewhat humorous (albeit ironic) that we so often ignore God’s voice as He warns us to stop and then we blame Him for our pain. “Why did you let this happen?” we cry as if He had not tried to prevent it. And when we remember His words of warning, we act as though we never heard them as we cry to our friends, “I don’t know why this happened.”

Don’t you? Didn’t you hear His voice as He gently called, “My child, don’t do that. You’ll only get… Hurt.” But we bury ourselves in our pain and leave Him hoping we will turn back into His arms. We’re mad at Him for our own refusal to listen. ”Wait just a moment,” He warned. Had we obeyed, He would have softened the blow. But we didn’t listen. And now it hurts.

But maybe, for once, we should stop trying so hard to blame God and turn into His comforting embrace instead. Maybe it is time to fall into His loving arms and let Him chase away the tears as He whispers, “It is okay now, beloved. I’m here.” Maybe, just maybe, He should be the One we run to rather than the One from which we run. Maybe this time, we should give Him a chance to soothe away the pain we have inflicted upon ourselves.

Don’t run away. Fall into His arms today.