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.)

Unconditional

In youth group this week, we were talking about God as our Father. When I got the girls into small group, one of them looked at me and said, “I get that God loves us, but what I don’t understand is why.” She then expounded upon what horrible beings we are and basically asked why God even bothers with us.

Whoa.

It’s probably a good thing that I don’t think it’s my job to give answers, but to spark discussion, because those girls have rendered me speechless time and time again.

Because I don’t think there’s a “why” answer when it comes to love.

Love is not something that can be explained logically; it simply is. At some point you make a choice, conscious or unconscious, to love another person and that is simply what you do. If we flawed human beings can figure that out, wouldn’t you suppose that a perfect God would be capable of the same thing?

The love my student was describing to me had stipulations. God should love us… until we fail Him, in which case He should turn His back on us forever.

But that’s not what love does. And God is Love, so that’s not what God does either.

So here this girl is asking me why, and I’m simply sitting there with my mouth poised in an answer that never comes. Because I don’t have an answer. Not really. I can’t explain why God loves us even when we spit in His face any more than I can explain why I still love my brother even though he once punched a tooth out of my mouth.

He’s my brother, and I love him; we’re God’s children, and He loves us. I could have said that to my student the other day, but I don’t think it’s a satisfactory answer for most people. I don’t know why it is for me.

I’m always a little hesitant to say this because it seems like it shouldn’t be possible, but I’ve never had a problem with the Unconditional thing. Maybe it’s because I spent a lifetime in church, where it has been permanently ingrained in my being. Maybe it’s because I have parents who would still welcome me home if I showed up on their doorstep pregnant or strung out on drugs. Or maybe it’s because my personality type according to Disney has been summarized as “Most likely to remain faithful to you even after being transfigured into an anthropomorphic clock under a curse that you caused.” (I never saw any similarities between me and Cogsworth until that moment, but now I kind of feel like I need to watch Beauty and the Beast for the hundredth time.)

In any case, I can do the Unconditional thing. I think that’s the piece of God’s image He gave specifically to me, and I’m grateful for it. Even though it has torn my heart asunder a thousand times, I’m glad I can still love freely and deeply.

Because I want to be the one who would leave the porch light on for my children to come home—perhaps in far worse shape than I would choose to find them—but home nonetheless.

I’ve always only ever wanted to be someone you can come home to.

I had a conversation with a preschooler one day. She sat down on the bench next to me, screwed up her face like she was thinking real hard, and finally asked, “Why does Brookie love you so much?”

As if I could know the motives of a child who couldn’t yet speak a word more than my name. As if I could put words to what happened in my heart when I first held her infant form in my arms. I chose her, and she chose me, and there’s not a child or teacher in that school who doesn’t know that Brooke is Miss Rebekah’s baby. How do you explain something as miraculous as that?

“I don’t know,” I said. “Why do you love me so much?”

There was a moment’s pause as she thought about it. “I don’t know.”

And she snuggled up under my arm because the whys didn’t matter.
Because she knew she’d always have a place between my shoulder and my heart.
I love her, and she loves me, and it’s the sort of thing that’s unconditional.
And we all need a little bit of unconditional.