I heard somebody’s story lastnight and as they shared it, the walls around my heart came tumbling down. That’s pretty amazing, considering all I’ve done recently in pursuit of breaking through those walls. I know they shouldn’t be there. I know they will only hinder me in my relationships with God and the people He has placed around me. But because my heart has been hurt, it’s been hard to convince it into agreement. So I’ve done the only thing I know to do when all else fails: I’ve prayed for God to help.
That help came in the form of the story I heard lastnight. It was a story I’d heard before, but had forgotten. Only this time, I heard it from the mouth of the one who owns it.
We went to an event where Matt Hammit, former singer with Sanctus Real and now independent singer/songwriter, came and shared the testimony of his journey with his family through the challenge of having a child with a chronic illness. His son was born with half a heart, and from the womb, they were encouraged to just abort his life.
They believe, however, that every life God creates has purpose, and so they chose to embrace that purpose, however short or difficult or painful it might be. They prayed for courage, and little Bowen was born. Shortly after he was born, he went through his first open heart surgery, and his little half of a heart stopped beating. They stood together, watching the nurse try to pump his heart with her fingers for more than 45 minutes before they were asked to leave the room. Knowing that meant the end was near, Matt couldn’t bring his heart to give up and uttered one last prayer for God to save him.
Shortly afterward, the doctors came in to tell them that little Bowen’s heart had begun to beat again! Bowen is now eight years old and has undergone three open heart surgeries, surviving every one of them. Life is still not normal for them, and carries the constant threat of fragility and death. But they have chosen to make the most of every moment together, to lean in and cherish each other, instead of retreat from the pain and protect their hearts from being hurt.
At the onset of this journey, God challenged Matt about the way he loves in the face of pain and potential broken hopes, and he wrote a song called “All of Me.” I remember hearing this song when it was released, along with just a piece of their story. It spoke to me then because I was pregnant with my youngest child, and I had a deep fear that God was going to take her from me. So I, too, was wrestling with trying to embrace a new life while at the same time preparing my heart to let it go, and wanting to hold nothing back in the moments I might be given with her.
Now, eight years later, both Matt and I still have our children, but undoubtedly face other challenging situations in life which call for deep, unreserved love in the midst of pain and potential loss.
I love the song he wrote because it is a picture of the way God loves us: broken people on our way to wholeness. Yet, He loves us with His whole heart, holding nothing back. And He wants us to love the people in front of us the exact same way, believing they are worth the pain we will endure in the journey. Even if things don’t go the way we hope.
I’ve been protecting my heart because I didn’t like how it felt to be wounded. This is fallen human nature. I built walls to keep me from more hurt, and to have a buffer in case things didn’t change or didn’t go as God has promised. It sounds ridiculous, and anything but like real faith, but it’s what we do when we get broken. And what God does is walk right up to those walls with His nail-scarred hands, and call us out of hiding.
I don’t know if my heart is convinced yet that it’s worth the pain to love with no reservation, but I am willing today. Even if I lose a part of me in the process. This is how Jesus loves me. He laid everything down, for me. And it’s how He has asked me to love others. It will take courage, to be sure. It will take deep trust. And it will take determination to allow Him to be the refuge for my heart, as I train my heart to learn that pain is never the end of the story. It is only a passageway on the journey which leads to abundant life.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, as you read the lyrics to this song, and hopefully look it up and listen to it today, may you find the courage to respond to God’s invitation to love with your whole heart – even if the ones you’re loving are so broken that they can’t love you back the same. May you be reminded that God’s love is perfect, and it’s enough to keep you when it’s hard and heavy. And may you and I discover the rich, deep rewards of loving others the same way that we have been loved. If we dare to, our world will most certainly be changed.