Sometimes people break your heart. Many of us learned this painful truth early in life, long before exiting elementary school. It’s a risk we are all forced to live with, like car accidents. Due to the high exposure of the heart when living in a ministering community, this risk greatly increases. Its equivalent to driving 50,000 miles a year on a busy highway- an accident is bound to happen. Problem is, there is no insurance for the heart. So here I pause, applying pressure on the most recent stab wound. I won’t bleed to death, but there is the temptation to toughen my pericardial covering and protect myself from future punctures.
We are born dependent on community. Our very survival necessitates that someone cares enough to keep us warm, fed and protected. I believe this is part of what makes us in God’s image, as He Himself is a community of Father, Son and Spirit- and all of history is the tale of how He pursued our hearts and offered the ultimate sacrifice in order to include us . Like it or not, we never grow out of this need for connection (for God as well as other human beings). Many are blessed to have families and/or social structures that fulfill this innate desire, but some wander in the desert of isolation, desperately searching for this missing piece. The challenge is, people hungry for connection and belonging are often broken, hurt and difficult to love. And if you’ve lived more than a couple years, then you already know how broken people tend to break people.
At a young age God gave me a tenderness for the lonely and disconnected, and I faithfully loved as I awaited His bigger, more important calling. Forty years later, I finally realize this IS the higher calling. I will never do anything more important or powerful than love people. Desiring to love people like Jesus loves has taught me to look past brokenness and see the person He created. I don’t do this perfectly, but it’s always my desire. Our family and community is dedicated to loving whoever comes to us, and we do it carefully, with wisdom, prayer and shared experience. To love like this means we sometimes step into situations others wisely avoid. Pulling a victim out of a burning car has great risk, but if no one does it they surely die. It’s not that we don’t see the danger or feel fear, we just allow compassion to rule. (If you read the New Testament, you can’t avoid the continual reference “Jesus moved with compassion”) Sometimes a little fire licks the skin and we suffer as the burn heals. But we all agree that a human being, created and loved by God, is worth a few scars. This is why I won’t pay the price of hardening my heart in order to protect it. I want to respond to the next wanderer with open arms, like Jesus did for me, and that posture involves exposing my heart.