To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart certainly will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one…Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
My friend Michael (who also happens to be one of my pastors) read this a few weeks ago. I mulled over making it my Facebook status and commenting on how true the first three sentences are. How much sadness I’ve felt these last few years and yet how purpose filled and thankful I feel for these kids in spite of the sadness.
Then, last week, I got word that Wilmer has run away. This child for whom I’ve spilled more tears has chosen a life of addiction and suffering. As I sobbed in my car in front of a random house on an unfamiliar street after driving aimlessly for some time, I firmly proclaimed that I am done with this. I never, ever want to feel this way again. There is no point. You work and you love and you pray and you hope and you cry and you love some more and it does nothing.
But the day I received this crushing news was also Juan Carlos’ birthday.
He is another child that I have blogged about before. (Read about him here.) To me, he is the example of a child headed for destruction on the street who thirstily drank in the few opportunities given to him and is flourishing; his life on the streets a distant memory. Remembering him peeled a layer of the bitterness away and was the reminder of hope that I needed.
A few days later, I reread this quote and the second part struck me – “safe in the coffin of your selfishness”.
Like walking away from children who have loved me enough to trust me (or trusted me enough to love me) because sometimes I don’t like how their realities make me feel. No. Absolutely not. I proclaim from this table at which I sit that I refuse to allow the evil that they have experienced defeat me. And with that proclamation comes a little bit of strength and hope. My stomach becomes knotted each time Wilmer crosses my mind and my eyes well up at each picture I accidentally see. But each day, I will think of
or every other child who’s still fighting to become a Juan Carlos instead of a Wilmer. And they need people who are committed to fight alongside them. This energizes me.
So, yes, to love is to be vulnerable. Your heart will most certainly be wrung and broken. But we’ve got to do it. When our hearts are in pieces on the floor it is so tempting to sweep up the remnants and find a place for them to be safe forever. But it’s at that point we have a choice – to live this life of safe selfishness that, for me, would lead to emptiness and regret, or continue to strive for a balance between this deep sadness and the fulfilling knowing that what you’re doing, that your love, really, truly matters. Today, I choose the latter.
(To read the Wilmer story from the beginning, click here and scroll to the end)