We have all had our hearts broken in one way or another. Some have had knives plunged in deep to create wounds that to this day still leak blood and others are covered in countless paper cuts that never cease to burn – whatever the case may be none has escaped unscathed. And with a primal urge of self-preservation we try to ensure that it will never happen again. We set out to build up barbed wire walls around our hearts that are impenetrable, each of us crafting fortresses within our chests. But one of the results of this that we hadn’t anticipated is that not only can no one slip past the boundaries to hurt us, neither can they come in to love us and even God’s love is shut out at the front gate. In preserving our safety we not numb our nerves to the deepest pains but we also sacrifice our capacity for the deepest joys. We become armored hearts, encased in bullet-proof layers of self-love because we would rather be un-hurt than we would love or be loved.
Love requires an abandonment of self-focused safety for the sake of laying everything on the line and taking a risk. While there are lesser affections that can slip through the steel plated layers of our hearts and different types of affections that allow us safety and some emotional satisfaction, they are pale and watered down things compared to love in its greatest and trust sense.
For there to be the fullest expression of love you must strip away the barriers you built up around your heart. Peel the layers back one by one, tear down the barriers until you stand there exposed. Everything gone except the barest essence of who you are. Vulnerable. A nakedness of heart and soul. And it is there that both love and pain are on the verge of being experienced at their deepest levels. The love could be ecstatic. The pain could be crippling. You might taste both in one breath. In that moment you are taking an audacious risk, and you cannot control the outcome. It’s a foolhardy frightening thing to do. But that’s what love does. That’s what Jesus did.
Jesus didn’t factor in self-preservation when He let His body be brutalized and murdered for the sake of love. He didn’t die on the cross to save us so much as He died on the cross to give us the opportunity to be saved. We can freely accept or reject that offer of love because a forced love is not love at all but rape, and He is the Lover, not the rapist, of our souls. On that day when He hung on a tree Jesus took a reckless risk. The cross is the wedding ring He held out to humanity not in a box lined with velvet but instead lined with His blood. It was an audacious gamble. But what makes it even more astonishing, is that it was not just one risk. He didn’t take a risk for humanity as a whole so much as He took a risk for each and every human heart that ever was or ever will be. One courageous risk for one broken human heart – and how many gambles was that? In that one action of His death He took millions upon millions of these risks. He was hanging there thinking of you as He placed the biggest bet of all eternity that made even the notion of Vegas seem like child’s play and He wondered… will you say yes? And to the question He received so many answers, so many yes’s and no’s. And while there is so much joy He received for each and every yes, I think we often forget how many no’s He heard too. How many of those risks failed, and how many people walked away as He knelt down with the wedding ring of the Heaven held out. Jesus knows not only the bliss of love, but the utter and irrevocable weight of heartbreak. Love isn’t all soft happiness, it can be brutally sharp and devastating. And it is because of this that it is not for the faint of heart.
As I look at the high cost that love can require, I confess that at times fear threatens to flood me and I feel the almost irresistible urge to go and reinforce those layers of steel around my heart. But at what cost? And what holy and beautiful things would be forever lost to me? So instead I choose to be a risk taker. To be reckless and let down the walls. To love deeply, passionately, and audaciously from the core of who I am and not from the little charades that I convince people as to being the authentic me. To be like Christ and lay it all on the line, ready for either deep joy or deep heartbreak. Because a shallow love between armor encased hearts is not enough for me. Instead I’ll strip all the layers away and be a naked soul waiting, wondering, what the ultimate cost of this risk may be. And even if the reward for this risk is a bloody wound, I will refuse to let a callus grow over my heart. Because it is ultimately the Lover of my soul who holds my heart in His hands, and when He holds me no pain and no risk is too much. I will still love from the rawness of myself because He loves me as I am and because no fortress around my heart is necessary when my heart finds its home in the fortress of His presence. In the arms of the ultimate Risk Taker I choose to take a risk and lay it all on the line.
I choose to love courageously.