Sunday, July 28, 2013

Love Hurts (According to the Everly Brothers)

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So I've decided that breaking up the family-of-six that you see below flat-out stinks.

Yes, it's that time again. Celia leaves for Spain tomorrow. Though she looks quite content to pretend to be an American, she isn't. (Not until she marries an American boy, anyways, which she may or may not have plans for.). She's Spanish, and she's not technically ours.


You would think that I, of all people, would know from the beginning that you don't have to carry, birth and raise a child to feel like she belongs in your family, nor do you have to watch someone grow from infant to young adult to form a lifelong bond; my adopted sisters taught me that years ago. You don't even have to technically meet someone before they have your heart forever; I learned that from my Compassion International and Reece's Rainbow kids.

But I had forgotten how much it hurts to watch them go.

Last year, several months after Celia left, I was driving home on Market Street when I saw a teenage girl walking. She didn't look a thing like Celia, but she was wearing the same grey-and-hot-pink shirt from Seaside that Celia purchased on a trip there. And just like that, I had a lump in my throat and was grateful I was wearing sunglasses.

I suppose I'll have to prepare for more moments like those in the upcoming months.

I was thinking to myself yesterday how loving someone can bring so much joy and happiness, especially when that someone is like Celia: responsible, mature, funny, giving, smart, easy-going and selfless. This exchange-student-turned-daughter/sister is popular wherever she goes, simply because she's easy to love. Doing her laundry, driving her to 6 a.m. tennis practices across town, keeping track of her teenaged whereabouts, etc. certainly was work. But I gladly did it...because she's easy to love and loves me and my family back.

But then it hit me: do I offer that same sort of enthusiasm to others who perhaps aren't so easy? Do I gladly offer whatever I have (time, affection, words of encouragement or correction, gifts, abilities, etc.) to those who test my patience, hurt my feelings, wound my pride and disrupt my plans?

To be honest, I don't think that's an area where I excel. And as a follower of Jesus, that saddens me.

In the Bible, Jesus frequently talks about loving your enemies
. It both was and is a completely radical idea. After all, why should we be kind to those who don't return that kindness? Why should we help those who stomp our advice, money or resources into the dust? Why should we attempt to find common ground with our opposites? Why should we open up our hearts to pain?

Because He did. And because through the pain, our hearts expand, giving us a greater capacity for joy. I'm talking about true, lasting joy -- not just momentary happiness that changes with the circumstances.

If we never loved Celia, we wouldn't know the hurt that comes from not having her here. But we would also never know the fullness that comes from parenting a teenager who's only 11 years younger than us.

If we never left Salem -- the city of my heart
-- I would never cry over what I'm missing. But I would also miss out on the upcoming adventure that is 4 years in Europe.

If we never open our hearts, wallets, schedules and homes to those who have none, we can avoid the heartache that comes from growth. But we would also remain stunted -- mere saplings who never reach their mighty-oak potential.

Even when it's easy (like with Celia), love hurts. If you listen to the Everly Brothers, it similarly scars, wounds and mars.

And what about when it's hard? What happens when loving others leaves your soul gasping for air?

Listen to what a 1950s, born-of-privilege nun working in the rough East End of London had to say:

"What had impelled Sister Monica Joan to abandon a privileged life for one of hardship, working in the slums of London's Docklands? 'Was it love of people?' I asked her.

'Of course not,' she snapped sharply. 'How can you love ignorant, brutish people whom you don't even know? Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness, and carry on working, in spite of it? One cannot love these things. One can only love God, and through His grace come to love His people.'" -- The Midwife
by Jennifer Worth.

Maybe you and I don't work with lice and rats, but we all know people who hurt us and our families, try our patience and make unwise choices. Thankfully, we don't have to love selfishness or mistakes, nor excuse bad behavior.

But hopefully, like Sister Monica Joan, I will learn to look past the choices to see the person behind them. For I, too, have been and am wretchedly unlovable...yet receive the ultimate love from my Savior anyways.