Loss changes us. Loss takes away what we love and leaves a hole that may never get filled. Time does not heal all wounds, nor does love always happen again. Sometimes it is far easier to hold onto a beautiful memory or a special photograph than it is to be vulnerable and love again. It is especially difficult when you know that another loss will be eminent and your heart will be broken all over again.
All of us have experienced broken hearts. Times when we think it impossible to ever love again. And when we do not have the effort or desire to love again, we become jaded and cynical.
… but …
God calls us to love with open hearts. We are called to live lives of deep love that will lead to deep sorrow in loss. We are encouraged to love like Jesus—perfectly, completely, beautifully. Jesus didn’t give up on love when people didn’t love in return. Nor did he quit loving when people walked away from him. Instead, he looked at the retreating figure of the rich, young ruler and “loved him.” He loves us when we “get it” and ultimately follow him. But he also loves us when we drift away from him and do our own thing for a time. And wonder of all, he still loves us when we walk away from him—forever.
Thinking about his disciple, Judas, one can’t help but realize that though Jesus knew from the foundation of the world that this man would betray him, he still loved him. Clearly, Judas was treated no differently from the other disciples, as there are no verses in the Bible mentioning, “We had no need to ask Jesus who was going to betray him, as the past three years definitely showed us that he didn’t feel the same about Judas.”
No, Jesus invested into this man, just as he did his other eleven followers. Yet, all the while, he knew that there would be no return on this investment. That for all the time poured into him, there would be no benefits for anyone. When the going got tough, Judas would change sides, listen to the lies of religious people, and make heart-breaking decisions. Judas would kill himself instead of falling at the feet of his dying Savior, Lord, and Teacher—pleading for forgiveness and confessing his great sin.
And, I wonder, do I love like Jesus? Do I choose to love again and again, even when my heart is broken? Do I see the high priority of love and realize that there is no other choice but to love? Will I choose to follow the example of Christ and invest in relationships—even when they disappoint, drift away, or die?
Or, do I shut out love for fear of having my heart broken again? Refuse to love again for fear of abandonment? Keep my heart “safe” from making poor investments in others by not developing relationships at all? These are all questions I’ve been asking myself over the past several weeks.
So, I want to close with the easiest story to tell of all the stories happening now. Baba (African for “born on a Thursday” and the name of the sheep in “The Little Drummer Boy”) was my best boy. This rat made me smile when I got home in the evenings and I loved cuddling with him on snowy, winter nights. He was a burst of joy in every day and a sweet gift from God—especially, considering that he shouldn’t have survived when all but one of his siblings died soon after birth.
Before I went to the D.R., he had a tumor removed from his neck. Within a week it was back and I knew he was living the last of his life. A piece of my heart died when I said good-bye to him early that Sunday morning, as I knew that that could very well be the last time I’d see him with the breath of God filling his lungs. But I knew that God had called me on this trip and it was going to have moments of loss and sorrow—beginning with Baba.
The Wednesday I returned home, I found Baba had slipped away. My heart broke and I cried for him and me and all the other things in life that couldn’t be understood and explained away. I told his buddies that I would never love any of them like I loved Baba. I kept my word for the next two weeks until something broke inside of me and I realized again that love isn’t love until it’s given away. And with all the circumstances swirling around telling me to guard my heart, I made the choice to love instead.
Freely. Strongly. Deeply. In all circumstances. In all relationships.
Like Jesus does.