On Sunday my husband stood on a stage and said love is dangerous. He said if you love you're going to get hurt. He said love endures all things. Love protects. He said love stands out in the surf like a giant rock, bearing the wind and waves, its face scarred by years of standing still, refusing to back down or fall back.
He stood there, himself scarred by the mistreatment he'd endured from people he'd tried so hard to love, people he still stands alongside, refusing to leave, even as they refuse to love him back. He stood there, worn out from the work of loving me, this wife who so often lets him down, this woman who wants to be loved, who expects to be loved well, but who doesn't always love back in the same generous measure.
He stood there, weary. And brave. And beautiful.
My kids climb trees. And go to the bathroom by themselves at Target. And ride their bikes around the block. They use the stove to make their grateful parents breakfast in bed. We know they could fall out of the trees. That they could be kidnapped in the bathroom. That they might get hit by a car or burned on the stove. And we let them climb trees and ride bikes and cook anyway. We do it, because they're learning important skills. Because one day they will leave our house and need to cook dinner or ride their bikes to work or scale a wall at boot camp. We're also teaching them to be brave, because life is dangerous.
We let them take risks (encourage them even), because we're preparing them for life.
My friend Kim lost a brother in a car accident. Actually, she lost her brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces all at once. She and death aren't friends, but they're more than acquaintances.
She said to me once, "What's the worst that could happen to me? I die."
And I loved the way she laughed at death, so small and weak upon close examination.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life... the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (I Jn 5:1, 18-19)
This last weekend I led a group of women in a discussion about their divorces, a public discussion, seventy faces watching words pulled from hearts like anchors heaved up. All three had been left by their husbands, pushed into separations not of their choosing. They sat on a stage in blue rolling chairs, holding microphones, answering questions about the hardest thing they'd ever had to face and listening as their voices, magnified, bounced around the room.
I told the audience, "I promise I am not hurting them with these questions." I said, "They've prepared for this. They want to do this." And that part was true, but the first part wasn't. The questions were hurting, painful like arrows. You could see them flinching as I pulled the questions from my quiver. And yet. These women stood like soldiers on the frontline, taking enemy fire. They did it for the good of the women in the seats not on the stage. Every word they uttered, soaked with courageous vulnerability, blessed and equipped the women who listened.
It was beautiful--watching my friends bear that pain for us. Watching them wash us in their blood.
It would have been safer not to speak. But who cares about "safe" in the kingdom of God?
My husband bought Girl Scout cookies from the muslim girl in the hijab in front of the neighborhood convenience store. We don't buy Girl Scout cookies usually, but he wasn't thinking about the cookies when he walked up to the table and smiled at the green eyed girl. He was thinking about how hard it must be to be a muslim girl in Texas. He wondered if anyone was buying cookies. He wanted her to feel safe. And loved.
And so he talked to her and her mother. Their accents were thick. He wondered if maybe they were refugees. Certainly they were immigrants. Having been a Boy Scout himself, he was glad she was in Girl Scouts, glad she'd found a troop. He bought the chocolate cookies with peanut butter, and we ate them in two sittings.
My friend Britney is drinking coffee at her dining room table in the Dominican Republic today. She's homeschooling her daughter while her two boys undo all the things she's done around the house. Just a month ago she sold all her stuff on her front lawn in Tennessee (and on Facebook). Then she sold the house. Then she got on a plane with her tiny children bound for a country where she doesn't even speak the language. Yet.
What would motivate a girl who's always lived in the cozy comfort of the American South, raised on sweet tea and yes ma'am and Alabama football, to go teach college students about Jesus in a crowded, noisy Caribbean city with no Chickfila and no friends?
I planned to end this post with one of my favorite passages of scripture, Hebrews 13:6.
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
I love that. I teach it to my daughters. We say it with hands on hips like superheroes.
Today I looked it up to copy and paste here in this spot, and I found myself surprised by the context of the passage. Chapter 13 starts this way:
"Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering..."
According to Paul, brave and inspired Paul, this is what we have no reason to fear: Love.
Not because love isn't dangerous. It is. Not because with God you won't get hurt. You will. You don't have to fear love or the consequences of love because the Lord is your Helper. Because He won't leave you.
And because whatever happens here, whatever arrows we find slung our way, we, the people who've died and been raised to new life, cannot die again.
What can mere mortals do to us, the immortal?