“Do I have a family?
Yeah, sure kid, I used to.
One night I got a call that her body was found in an old alleyway. Her “friends” dumped her there after an she OD’d on heroin. Left her there to rot, those a**holes. She wasn’t found until three days after she died. Not that I’m surprised. She didn’t have any real friends. No real family. She sold her soul to the Devil the day she left home to live with them. She was only nineteen when she died. A real shame. Left me two brats to take care of too. Not that I mind all that much, gives me somethin’ to do, ya know?
How old are ya again, Nina? Nineteen? You kinda look like her. Stay in school kid. I mean that. Don’t eff up your life like she did.”
Her name is Dusty. That name personifies her character better than any character named Dusty is any book I’ve ever read. I met her outside the diner on my first day of work. She was standing outside the back door smoking a cigarette when she asked me,
“Hey! What’s your name? Ain’t you got any place better to be? Well don’t just stand there! Get inside and start the coffee!”
In between waiting tables, she tried to scare me by telling me about the many bar-fights and drinking contests she’d won, but I was never afraid of her.
I knew she was soft when I saw her reading her romance novels everyday during her lunch break. I saw a tenderness when she talked about her two rascal grandchildren, even though she swore she’d beat them if they crossed her. Although she tried to seem hard, I knew she was softer than her daily Sunny-Side Up eggs.
“Oh yeah, I got a son too. Where is he? No idea. Probably someplace in Chicago. He ran away a few years back. Eh, don’t be sorry. He’s got that schitz thing. Ya know, schizophrenia? He refused to take his meds. Liked taking other drugs instead. And one day he was just gone. Went to find him a couple a times to bring him back home. But ya can’t drag a kid off the street if he don’t wanna come. Damn, he looked terrible last time I saw him. Dropped off some blankets for him, God knows how he survives the winters up there.”
Dusty is just one of the many hearts I fell in love with this summer.
I usually spend my summer days amidst the rolling hills and lush greenery of Western NY. And while I visited there for a few days, my summer has been spent nestled somewhere within the DFW metroplex, a place where God has shown me love like never before.
The dense jungle of concrete and endless sea of sunshine (otherwise known as Arlington, Texas) became the backdrop to my summer fling with the human soul.
I’ve never been in love before, unless you count giddy crushes on cute boys from summer camp or hot quarterbacks who sit across from you in church… No, I’ve never been in love, but this summer I fell head-over-heels.
This summer my heart experienced the euphoria of butterflies, deep smiles, and soul-laughter- as well as the pain of let-downs, brokenness, and tears.
I fell in love with telling eyes and worn-out, heart-stitched sleeves.
I fell in love with story after story; I even grew to love the ones I never heard.
The old, homeless man at the library who sat in the same seat every day, but always had a different book.
The handsome young bartender who made me laugh from my eyes to my toes, but also shared with me a world of spiritual doubts and unanswered questions.
The woman who could spit out any stat about Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala, but couldn’t tell me anything about her fifteen year old son because he has refused to speak to her for the past 2 years.
These are not just stories. They are real. Real emotions from real people. And hearing them makes me wonder how many people have actually taken the time to listen to them. People don’t care enough to listen these days. Nobody does anything for anyone unless they are receiving something in return for it. I see it over and over again. Symbiosis, isn’t it called? It all comes down to what people believe about love. And people have been distorting and taking advantage of love since the beginning of time.
I believe that love is not a form of currency, but it is a gift.
To love and to be loved should not come at the expense of others- it shouldn’t only be based on mutual advantage, but it should be given freely.
My love affair with the people I met this summer has only proved my previous hypothesis.
People don’t know how to give love because they don’t know how to receive it.
C.S. Lewis wrote,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.
Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
To love is to be vulnerable.”
Aren’t we all afraid of being hurt because of love?
We are scared that if we open our hearts to another it will be broken. Scared that love given will not be reciprocated or will be disregarded carelessly. We might be scared that love received is conditional and that if we are unmasked, the darkness of our scars will cause love to run far far away.
We are scared to be hurt. Better to guard your heart. Let nothing in, let nothing out.
But can’t you see that by burying away your love you are ceasing to live?
The icicles start at your fingertips when you use your hands to push love away.
The ice will slowly glaze over your skin and sinks its fangs into your blood-and-soul pumping organ until your heart is frozen and impenetrable.
Take some time to evaluate yourself.
Are you afraid of being vulnerable in the name of love?
I definitely am.
But the Great I Am is not afraid of giving away His love. He LAVISHES it upon us. LAVISHES!
He offers it freely and completely.
He dresses us in it and sings it over us. He quiets us with His love and causes us to shout of it from the mountains.
God is love.
He is glorified when He gives love; He is glorified when He receives it.
And I might always be scared to love in such a reckless way as my God does.
I might always be scared of how much and how unconditional His love for me is.
But I believe that the Lion of Judah will teach my heart courage if I so dare to let Him.
Each moment I spend in His presence is a moment spent under His teaching.
He will teach me and He will teach you to love others and how to let love in.
There are no promises that your heart will be spared of all pain and hurt, but the Healer will renew you and steady you in His time.
We will never experience the deep joy accompanying love unless we bleed and heal in one way or another.
But it is worth it. I swear to you it is.
To love is to be vulnerable, yes… But it is also to be seen and to be known to be fulfilled.
I encourage anyone reading this blog to fall in love. Let yourself fall in love with the people all around you. In your classes, at the grocery store, in a relationship. Sit at the feet of Jesus, and then sit at the feet of others. Touch someone’s heart with your attentiveness. You will learn so much. You will grow. I know because in a head-over-heels sort of way, God has allowed me to learn a great deal about giving and accepting love.
His love is STEADFAST- let Him show you. Let Him love you.
If you have any ounce of patience left in you after having read this painfully long blog post, take time to sit before God and rejoice. READ PSALM 118. It’s an incredible reminder of His enduring love. Give Him your time and energy and rejoice! Rejoice in the steadfast love He offers you to lean on.
Love your God.
He waits to be wanted.