Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Way of Words

Have you ever read a book that completely and utterly undid you? I mean the kind of book that rips you open, and you wonder how the author wrote your heart on paper. Ann Voskamp's books do that to me.

It was January 27th of this year (I checked!) when I received an e-mail at work that stopped me cold. The subject line read simply, "If You Are What You Love, What Are You?" Grateful that my manager understood my daily devotional as my wellness, I knew I would need to really absorb what Lisa-Jo Baker had written. It is early May now, and that e-mail remains in my inbox at work, because I have been wrestling with the answer.

In February, I found myself reading Ann Voskamp's latest book, The Broken Way. Not at all unusual in my world, her writings both struck a chord in my heart and coincided well with almost every Scripture and inspirational writing I picked up at the time. I struggled between reading the book slowly enough to soak it in or reading it all at once! One of the pieces that grabbed my attention was this fresh perspective on love:
      "But isn't this the way of love? Love bears all things? 'To bear', stego in the Greek. It
      literally means a thatch roof. Love is a roof... Real love is a roof. Real love makes
      you into a shelter... makes you into a safe place. Real love makes you safe. Stego."
Whenever I imagine a thatched roof, I picture a home built into a hillside, with the natural grass surface as a roof. (In all likelihood, this stems from the days my younger bookworm self read the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, in a dirt-floor home with a thatched roof.) But something new came to mind this time: that kind of roof would have creatures living in it! Not just creatures you chose for pets, but rodents and spiders and worms. Undesirables.
What do you do when you build a safe place and messy, undesirable things happen? When conflict happens. When you're always chosen last. When a spouse leaves. When you lose a child. When friendships fall apart. When family dissolves. When you find yourself miles from home, busy but empty. What then?
      "Your one broken heart always splits God's heart in two. You never cry alone."
I've had this conversation with my best friend. We are, each of us, very alone in our current geographic locations. Despite being 10 hours away, Sara has been my closest option for a coffee date. It goes without saying there have been more pity trips than road trips, each of us calling the other in moments of overwhelming loneliness.
      "What if instead of waiting for good things to happen to us, we could be the
      good thing to happen to someone else who's waiting? Every soul wants to
      experience a powerful connection... to be fully seen and experienced by Someone."
I read this last quote just before lying the book aside to participate in a book launch for Lisa-Jo Baker's Never Unfriended. Around the same time, Lysa Terkeurt's Uninvited arrived in the mail: a thoughtful birthday gift from Sara. As I read through these two books on friendship, I learned that I was far from alone in my fear of being the new girl, in my failed efforts to maintain long-distance friendships, and in my tears over the next steps. Confirmation of Ann's words above encouraged me to become the friend I had been waiting for. Where to start?
The dear long-distance friend who mourns the loss of her mom today as though it happened yesterday. The fellow high school graduate who lives in a remote territory with no extended family and very little sunlight. The woman I was led to through the strangest of coincidence, and whom knew I was called to encourage. The Life Groups starting up with church families. The mom of littles up the road who loses sleep while her children gain teeth. These are people I can reach with handmade cards, with gift cards, with cups of coffee and potluck suppers and random text messages.
Even as my reach begins to extend, I begin to see and hear repetitions of 1 Corinthians 13 everywhere. The emphasis is specifically on love and kindness. I realize that, while I am making strides personally, I have work to do professionally. My reaction is not always kind when I hang up the phone or delete the email. And in the middle of our industry's busiest season, I pick up The Broken Way after a 3-month hiatus, and begin to read Chapter 8.
With the flip of a page, it leaps out at me:
      "You are whatever you love ... We give our lives to things we never would if we got
      honest and thought about them for one single moment. Our ideals never compel like
      our loves."
And I get it. I have spent hours scrolling social media, with the strongest connection made being my WiFi connection. I have invested time chasing Pok√©mon for my 5 year old when we could have been cuddling over a book instead. I have extended open invitations to stop in for a beverage rather than delivering a coffee or cookies to someone who's struggling. I have lamented my lack of effective influence while often being impatient and less than kind in my circle of influence. Ideals versus love.
I am humbled that God would spend 3 months making sure I understood the message. I am thankful that His mercies are new every morning. I am determined to love, because He has loved me so faithfully and so unconditionally. May I learn, and be known for, that kind of love.

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