Love Hurts

Sometimes love hurts. It’s a common saying in our house. Like the time I walked the floorboards from 2 to 5 am with her screaming little body heaving in my arms because nothing could cajole her to sleep. And the time after that and after that and after that. Or the time I pinned her body while the ER doctor took his mile long tweezers and extracted the bean she had shoved up her nose. Or the time I left him crying with his teacher after the bee sting, after the threat of allergic reaction was past, because he really would find school better than sobbing on my lap all morning. Or the time I heard him ask another little child, “Wanna be my friend,” and the little punk said, “No.” Sometimes love hurts. Like the times they tackle me, wrestle me, want to be hugged a little tighter and a little longer and my body just can’t hold that position but these are precious moments not to be wasted and so the muscles stretch and strain and with the pain is the gain.IMG_0426IMG_0429IMG_0431IMG_0432

Sometimes love hurts and it looks like rejection. “Go to your room” feels painful but we all need that time out, away from the situation, time for the emotions to flare on their own and then to smolder and eventually snuff out. And it hurts when they say, “Why don’t you love me anymore” and you know that this is grounding and based on love, love that loves so deeply that it wants to shape and mold and instruct and protect and it isn’t at all about not loving but about maintaining relationship and building character and someday they’ll understand.

Little Miss has always been a why person, expecting detailed explanations for everything. As she gets older, the answers are more complicated. Like the time driving home from church and her questions about the puppies in Milo and Otis showed great curiosity and eventually led us down the road to a little tale about the birds and the bees. Why this? Why that? Why can’t I tell my friends all about this, and by the way, how gross. And she’s the one throwing out the “why don’t you love me anymore” – her tweenness becoming more and more apparent by the second. How do I explain? There is nothing she could do, nothing that her brother could do, that would keep me from loving her. I may not always agree with her decisions and while she is under my roof I reserve the right to correct poor decisions in the hopes of avoiding further, more costly (and by costly I am not merely referring to monetary) poor decisions down the road. But no matter what, love is at the base of it. Which reminds us both that we have a heavenly Father who feels exactly the same way about us but more. In the middle of our mess, in the middle of our poor decisions gone hopelessly awry, in the middle of our impatience, anger, frustration, temper tantrums because we should call our forty year old emotional outbursts exactly what they are, in the middle of all that, He loves us. Watching it hurts, disciplining it hurts, paying for it on the cross hurt, waiting until just the right moment to bring it all to completion hurts. Yes, love hurts.

My children don’t know rejection, not well, and I pray with God’s grace they won’t know it intimately, certainly not from me. No, I worked too hard to carry them into this world, to carry them through the night and the morning and the afternoon nap, to bring them into contact with God’s amazing creation and people and experiences. Much has been given up, dreams have faded, desires quelched, because a diaper needs changed or someone needs to spend the afternoon snuggling or right now a knee needs a band-aid or a wounded heart needs to hear that the mean girl doesn’t know what she is talking about and that you are beautiful and fun to be around and said mean girl has no idea what she is missing by running away from you on the playground. I can’t imagine my life in any other way. Because even though love sometimes hurts, it is worth the loving.

But I think about Jennifer who was abducted by men, stolen from her family, her body used and abused and discarded when it carried the results of their abuse. At a very tender age, she became a “wife” to an army, not by any choice, not by any action on her part, but because in Uganda evil walks the ground in human form with a name and a face and an army behind it. And when Jennifer came limping home, pregnant and weary, wary of every moving shadow, skittish at night, afraid of further abuse, she must have placed great hope in returning to love, to family. Instead, she met rejection. “You carry the enemy’s baby,” she heard. “You are not welcome here. Go.” Flat, monotone, the voices of hate and disgust where there should have been love and doting and “Here, love, what have you gone through? Let me wipe your feet, dry your tears, carry some of that burden with you.” Who am I to judge their response, except that as a mother I can’t fathom. She was lost but now she’s found! Why isn’t that good enough?

Jennifer moved on away from family, started her own feeble family of two, and eventually heard the words she so longed to hear… from Him. He led her to Village of Hope Uganda who took her in and began singing His love song in her ear. You are loved, beloved, tender and dear, beautiful and sacred and worth a son, bride of my heart. The people at Village of Hope Uganda invested in Jennifer and her child, taught her a skill, gave her hope and purpose and love. Today, she leads up the bead making enterprise for the orphanage. In this case, out of hurt came love. Because saving lives isn’t just about medicine and medical care. It’s also about saving the broken parts we can’t see, the parts that hurt, ache, scar beneath the surface, the parts that need the healing only a Redeemer, a sacred Lover can offer. He can take the hurt and tear it down, He can replant the soil and start all over, He can bring the garden of love and beauty.jennifer

Or there’s Vicki who grew up knowing that her father valued her very little because she was born that cursed kind of creature, a female. Unable to carry on the family name or lead the family in dad’s old age, she had no value and certainly did not deserve an education. When the soldiers came demanding payment, her father gave Vicki to them rather than pay the money they requested. “Here, take her. I’m not gonna pay you. She is not that valuable to me. But my money is.” Rejected by her father and handed into the arms of evil. Like Jennifer, Vicki’s value lay completely in how men could use her body. We’re spending a lot of time here in the US debating Miley Cyrus’ use of her body recently at the Video Music Awards, bemoaning the lost innocence of Hannah Montana, berating our society for its depravity, rising up in indignation and promising to raise our daughters and sons better than that. At the heart of it, I think we’re all just a little shocked that a woman would make the choices Miley made, would value herself so poorly. When halfway around the world there are much smaller, much more innocent girls with no choice in the matter at all, for whom the lesson learned is that they have no value beyond what their bodies can offer men. Valued as much as we value a tissue… plucked, used, discarded. But Vicki was brought to Village of Hope Uganda after she escaped from the army. She shares a room with a fellow sister retrieved from the evil walking Uganda and together they have found comradery, value, importance… simply because they are beautiful daughters of God. And Vicki is going to school. On the webpage for Village of Hope Uganda, Vicki says, “Village of Hope Uganda staff love me. I feel like I am worth something for the first time in my life I feel valued for being a girl.”

Love hurts because of the value of the beloved. Where there is no value, there is no love. Where there are degrees of value, there are degrees of love. But not with God. All valued, all beloved, all called… can we hear His love song? He sings it over it all. This beautiful ballade born of love, redeemed by love, sanctified by love, bought by love, demands a chorus, amplified by voices angelic and earthly. Yes, love hurts. Not loving hurts more. And even though love sometimes hurts, it is worth the loving.

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