Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Don't make eye contact
Love makes us vulnerable.
Love opens us up to suffering.
These are probably not the first things that pop into your mind when you think about love. We like to think about the warm, fluffy stuff. At least I do. But the hard stuff, the truths listed above, are what make me cringe when I see a care-worn old man on the street corner in need of spare change. Or what makes me look away, fiddle with the dials on my radio, when a woman comes to my window holding a sign that says "On my last leg" and she literally is on one leg. Or what makes my heart shut up like a startled clam when I hear about a little boy in my neighborhood who was removed from his home by CPS when he prayed at an after school program for his mom to stop hitting him.
I don't want to love these people because I know how bad it will hurt.
In 2007 I spent a month in Kathmandu, Nepal encouraging the local church and doing street ministry. On one of the days that I had opted to stay home, hanging out by the toilet, my team had gone to do a prayer walk at one of the largest temples in the city. White people were a pretty exciting attraction for kids at these sites. Usually we'd attract a crowd of miniature followers pretty quickly, asking to see our cameras, or ipods and joyfully receiving the little candies we typically had in our pockets. This time though, a few of the kids stood out to my friend Lindsey. They were a little dirtier than normal, not as outspoken, and if I remember correctly Lindsey gravitated towards them immediately. There wasn't much to say because of the language barrier, but our Nepali friends informed us that these girls were temple orphans. Not knowing what else to do, Lindsey pulled a bottle of lotion out of her backpack and motioned to the girls, asking if she could put it on them. They nodded and Lindsey began massaging it into their dry, cracked arms and hands. Tears started seeping out of the little girls' eyes and then eventually out of Lindsey's. It's easy to assume this was probably the first time in a long time that these children has been touched in a loving way. Lindsey lingered with them as long as she could, silently hugging them, holding their hands as they walked around the temple. When it was time to go all three girls cried freely and held each other. Lindsey came home and told me everything, her face visibly registering the heart break behind it all. This story haunts and moves me even now.
When we love someone the strings of our heart become attached to theirs. You mourn their losses, cheer their wins. And I have been closing myself off to these things. At least for the ones that I'm sure will hurt the most. I put my head down, secure the blinders, turn up the music, and tune out my heart. And it's time to stop.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Maybe this means I will be weak with the pain of it all, but "His strength is made perfect in my weakness." Maybe this means that I will suffer great loss, but "I will count it all loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus."