“Be broken and given in a thousand common and uncommon ways. Live given a thousand times a day.” -Ann Voskamp
How does a human with a breakable heart deal with the coming-and-going of life? People come and go. Sure, emotionally people come and go — they find a place in our hearts and then run out, leaving behind broken trust and tracks of memories. But I’m talking about the physical coming and going of normal life. The physical coming and going that also gets down into our hearts.
People come and go – they move into our city or we move into theirs, we change jobs, move out, they move away, move on. It’s normal and it’s healthy but it can also just be plain sad. Sometimes it can feel like we live in a room with a revolving door and we are constantly saying hello and goodbye.
We give people a corner of our hearts knowing that later they may leave, because that’s what this life entails. We live life knowing our hearts will break open; sometimes a crack, sometimes a split, sometimes a cavern. So what can we with the breakable hearts do, knowing that the people we have come to love might have to leave?
If we’re not careful, we build little self-protection shells without realizing it — even just from the coming and going of life. Making new friends and saying goodbyes can make a heart weary. Sometimes it’s just less exhausting to avoid the hello in the first place.
Ann Voskamp comments on how Jesus handled loss: “He breaks the temptation to self-protect — and gives the vulnerability of Himself. In the sharp edge of grief, Jesus doesn’t look for something to fill the broken and alone places; He takes and gives thanks — and then does the most counter-cultural thing; He doesn’t keep or hoard or hold on — but breaks and gives away.”
From the normal-life goodbyes to the deepest relational hurts, that self-protection mechanism is automatic. But what if self-protection could look more like selflessness? Could self-protection be a strength that keeps its eyes focused on other people, not on itself? What is it to remain strong and resilient (so that we aren’t laid bare by sadness) but also incredibly soft (so that we are still giving of ourselves, still loving, still risking)?
Several years ago, one of my friends and I found our favorite emoji combination: the arm boasting a flexed bicep and the dainty pink bow. The best women we knew (and the type of women we wanted to become) were emotionally, spiritually, and mentally strong (thus the flexing bicep) as well as tender (the sweet, feminine bow). We would text this emoji secret-code to each other as encouragement to marry strength with tenderness, to embody both fortitude and softness.
Our hearts get cracks and we have two options: we can self-protect and try (in vain) to avoid additional cracks by giving less of ourselves to the people we meet. Or we can choose to avoid the temptation to emotionally hole-up. We can acknowledge any sadness we have but continue to give of ourselves and the love we have to offer, even in the midst of the ache. This is not an unwise or reckless self-sacrifice that trusts any person, puts us in bad situations, and leaves us spent. It’s a weighted, wise, intentional giving of ourselves that heals us up as we open up and fills us up as we give away. It’s the love of Jesus that gives and fills.