To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. ~ C. S. Lewis
“I’ve got more than sixty years of evidence that every day looks better with bacon.” My pork-raising dad’s a streak of confidence on the other end of the phone. “And I’m telling you, even the end of the world would seem less like a crisis when you’ve got a good plate of bacon in front of you.”
I’m flipping slices of bacon for breakfast. The only way to rise to the beauty of love is to rise and serve.
Dad’s talking engines and pistons of forsaken old tractors he’s found in junkyards and how he’s rebuilding a century-old post and beam barn that he moved from a neighboring farm before the farmer let a wrecking ball bring the old testament down to the ground. The bacon sputters and splatters in sunlight.
He’s telling me he is about to form up the whole span of tin roof, but I want to ask him what’s pounding through my veins:
What if you break open your one heart and risk pouring out your one life in givenness and you aren’t received as being enough to actually be loved back?
I figure Dad might know something about that.
I cradle the phone between shoulder and ear, keep nodding while stacking enamel plates at the edge of our barn-beamed table. Dovetailed together by the same carpenter who worked with my dad to build the house of my childhood, the same carpenter who built the gable I’d slept in all those years growing up, as the branches of the box elder scratched the roof through the nights of west winds. Three meals a day with all our grubby kids coming in from barn chores looking to be fed here. Barn beams for legs. Beams holding all of us up. Begging us all to somehow make room for Him, to make Christ present and become a roof, stego, a safe place for everyone who just needs to come in.
As the boys pound in, laughing loud through the kitchen, ball caps tipped backward, jostling each other about something, I mutter bye to Dad, who signs off like he always does, that he’s got a million things to do and here he is talking to me and yeah he’s got to go. Turn the stove off. Hope the bacon is cooked just the way the boys like it. How did the boys’ backs come to stretch this tall, and how do I see them as babies I once held and yet as the almost men who hold a bit of me? And how do they see me now?
I should have just asked Dad exactly that:
What if you take your one life and risk living given — and in the end you feel empty because no one saw you as worthy of being given love?
Who hasn’t read that haunted grief in an old woman’s eyes? Who wants to risk going down to the grave like this?
When our girls wander in with their eggs, the sunlight gets caught in their hair, slides down their shoulders, and they look like glory frozen in time. Shalom lets her clutch of eggs roll from her cupped shirt across the counter, and then turns and slips her arms around my waist at the stove. “Love you, Mama.” She buries her head into me, her hair warm from the sun, and I enfold her into my own broken places.
What if you risk breaking open your own vulnerable need, risk exposing your own broken places needing to be touched by love — and your brokenness is left exposed and unfulfilled?
I serve plates of bacon around the beamed table, watch the straggling, ragamuffin tribe of them reach for their serving. And everything under this roof, all our brave givenness through brokenness, all our brave receiving, all our exposed neediness — all of it is a vulnerable communion. The abundant life is a vulnerable communion. This is what I want — but how do you build a life like that?
Shalom’s freckles are awash in morning sun, and she’s drinking down orange juice and the boys are arguing loud and heatedly over the periodic table. And Hope’s looking out at morning coming across the fields, and I want to reach out and touch her — we’re all worth the risk of any brokenness.
That canvas of the crucified Christ hangs up in the gable over the table. This vulnerable communion is a risk. Givenness is a risk. The only way to abundant life is the broken way of risk.
When Dad had called over this morning, he’d said his farming friend, Alan Bertrand, in his signature denim coveralls and a worn-through cap, was “just trying to figure out whether to spend the years he’s got left restoring another one of those antique tractors he has out in the shop” — he’d sighed — “or if he should spend the time he’s got left, the years he still had, trying to track down his daughter he hasn’t seen or heard from in ten years.”
I could see Dad in my mind in his suspender overalls. “And so, Alan decided?”
You are whatever you love. You are, at your very essence, not what you think, but what you love. Open up God’s love letter to us — He says we’re all lovers compelled by our loves. We are all compelled not by what we believe is right, but by what we love the most. You are not driven by duties, you are not driven by doctrines; you are driven by what you ultimately desire — and maybe you don’t actually really love whatever you think you love?
And the saddest of all may be when we give away our lives to insignificant things, things we didn’t realize we subconsciously loved. Turns out — we give our lives to things we never would if we got honest and thought about them for one single moment. It’s happening every moment — our unintentional, accidental lives betray our true loves and what we subconsciously believe.
The cross on my wrist is asking me, forming me cruciform, forming me into what I say I love. This is no small thing. Because nobody’s ideals form them like their loves form them.
Why love the wrong things in the wrong ways? Our ideals never compel like our loves. The only way to the abundant life is to love the right things in the right ways.
I had shaken my head only slightly over the frying bacon, only slightly surprised, and the words choked out. “He intentionally considered the options, voiced them to you… and then decided the tractor?”
“Yeah. He already knew how to fix the tractor.” Dad talked slowly, punctuating every word, like his life could prove it. “Little risk. But the daughter? He doesn’t even know where she is. That was all risk. And you know…” His voice trailed off.
And I looked down at that little penned cross drawn on me, drawing me, that’s daring me to daily take the risk to be broken and given—yeah, Dad, I know, I know: our loves are formed by our daily habits. Our loves are formed by our daily liturgies. We are made into what we make habits.
Someone had once leaned over to me at church, nodded in the direction of our motley crew of a half-dozen kids, and then whispered to me, “What a sacrifice you’ve made.” Like I had given something up. And I had shaken my head, this lump burning like a holy ember in my throat so I couldn’t get out the words: Is it ever a sacrifice to give your love to whom you love more?
Sacrifice isn’t so much about losing what you love, but giving your love on to whom you love more. When you sacrifice for what you love, you gain more of what you love.
Love is a risk — that’s never a risk.
I didn’t know how to tell Dad that, couldn’t stop shaking my head. None of what he was saying made sense. And yet it did. I knew how it did because I’d lived it.
“Look.” Dad had been unashamedly frank, right about when the bacon was crisping. “Do we give up what makes us really happy, whatever we are good at, a lifetime of happiness, to risk our lives on a relationship that might never make us happy? Do we sacrifice what makes us really happy day in and day out — for a relationship that has the potential to make us unhappy?”
Dad had this stinging point: you can sacrifice your time, career, sanity, joy for a child, a spouse, a friend, and they might end up forever walking out some door on you, spitting on your reputation, your investment, your efforts, shredding your heart and never looking back. And you can’t get back the time and the lifeblood you gave away.
Dad had said it with this pain in his chest that I could feel in my own: “There are no guarantees with people.”
And before I could think, the words had left my mouth. “Jesus said,
‘Whoever loses their life for Me will find it.’ — Matthew 16:25
Jesus risked Himself on me. How can I not risk my life on you? You may not love me back. You may humble me, humiliate me, reject me, shatter my heart, and drive the shards into my soul—but this is not the part that matters. What matters most is always the most vulnerable communion. Koinonia is always, always the miracle. What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of Love Himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving.
Who knew that sometimes if you don’t risk anything — you’re actually risking everything?
How to reach out and touch my father’s broken places: love is always worth the risk because the reward of loving is in the joy of loving itself. Love is a risk that’s never a risk. Loving is itself the greatest outcome because loving makes one more beautiful, more like brokenhearted Beauty Himself. The risk of a vulnerable communion always leaves you tasting the grace of Christ.
No matter what the outcome looks like, if your love has poured out, your life will be successful.
Looking across that table at those kids scarfing down breakfast, looking into the faces of my own risk, like Alan Bertrand and Dad and the thousands who’ve come before, my own heart’s pounding like a willing offering:
I am what I love and I will love you like Jesus, because of Jesus, through the strength of Jesus. I will love when I’m not loved back. I will love when I’m hurt and disappointed and betrayed and inconvenienced and rejected. I simply will love, no expectations, no conditions, no demands. Love is not always agreement with someone, but it is always sacrifice for someone.
The wooden barn beams hold up this table, hold up these planks where we break bread, like they once held up a roof.
Excerpted with permission from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, copyright Ann Morton Voskamp. Published by Zondervan.
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Are you risking in relationships? Are you reaching out to love someone who could reject you, hurt you, and not love you back? Are you deciding to love like Jesus loves? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about love that’s worth heartbreak. ~ Devotionals Daily