Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (TESOL and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have five kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
I remember that first summer, and how I served up my heart to the neighborhood kids. I loved them with each beat. I was young. I was naïve. I believed that all tears were meant to be wiped away, and every problem was meant to be fixed - and likely by me.
And then, somewhere between concrete mindsets and belt marks, I wrapped up my heart and hid it away. There was so much I couldn’t blot away with a tissue. So much I couldn’t bandage up and fix up nicely. So, instead, I wrapped up my heart, choking it carefully under layers of rattled innocence. I signed a contract with cynicism, which became my heart’s guard dog - growling at any moment of tenderness that edged in.
I remember one afternoon a volunteer asking me in hushed tones if I thought there was a specific issue going on in a certain house. I hardly recognized my own voice, desensitized and punctured with pessimism: “Really? Yes, of course that’s happening. Can we do anything? No. Any proof? No.” And, as if that wasn’t discouraging enough for the newbie do-gooder, I couldn’t stop myself from throwing out one more dagger, “And, don’t think for a minute it’s the only situation like that either.”
I had nothing inspiring left to share. I had resigned to the enormous weight of life’s injustices and pain. I had counted the cost of getting deeply involved in vulnerable lives, and found the cost to be excruciating.
And, I asked: Can’t I watch from my window, Lord?
Please, can’t I just watch from my window from now on? After all, I’m here. I’m closer than most people. I will keep my eyes open. I will make myself a pot of tea, and I will sit here on my comfortable couch with my window shades open. I’m willing to do all that.
Can’t I just stay a safe distance and still proclaim Your love, Jesus?
Because compassion and mercy read well in ministry newsletters and blogs, but up-close it’s risky and real. And, well, I’d rather not, because we both know hearts never really recover.
God answered my prayer with silence, or so I thought.
It took time.
I tried to stay distant and behind the glass of my window, but my Father nudged me back in. I felt myself getting a little lost in the sweet black eyes. I found myself laughing, hugging, sharing.
Then one evening, a little boy fell down in my driveway, and before I knew it, I had raced to his side, and I was holding him, wiping away his tears and checking him over. I didn’t mean to care so much.
But, it was suddenly clear to me, as I wiped dirt off his elbows-
The Lord had been answering my question with a question of His own – one I had muted for the past months: “Are you willing to sacrifice your heart for this?”
And, in that moment on the driveway with little arms around my neck, I had already answered.
There is an odd mingling of joy and pain in life – a mixing that we prefer to sidestep whenever possible. We want the purity of the blessings, the joy, the ease – without the jading effects of tears or loss. But, it’s the aching that illuminates the beauty. And, it’s the crushing sadness that makes us cling fervently and stubbornly to joy.
It’s like that with relationships – those here in my world and those around you. I guess you could say there is little as rewarding and devastating as entering fully into the risky blessings of relationships.
And, sure, it’s safer to stay inside; I still remember that first summer pain like a mama remembers labor. It’s easier to watch from our windows, sipping on tea, praying quietly for all the lives just beyond our glass barrier. We’re protected there on our couch – protected from pain, but shielded from joy.
Can’t I just watch from my window, Lord?
Can’t we just proclaim Your love with some extra volume from a pulpit or from inside the sanctified walls or from our insulated Bible studies - rather than whisper it up-close?
Because, moving away from the window and out the door requires facing Sacrifice head-on. It’s about offering up your aching heart, letting go, and knowing full well God will break and crush and fill and warm that heart in order to love another person through you. You won’t escape this calling without wounds; there will be casualties, and it will include you.
That has to be settled as you reach for your door knob.
Leaving your window seat will cost you - and it will bring you great joy simultaneously.
Are you willing to sacrifice your heart for this? He asks. And, we look around at our familiar, our safe place. It's not easy to step out, is it?
But as we embrace the messy and the imperfection, we see redemption and beauty up-close.
We follow the footsteps of the Savior who moved in and settled close to our messy, broken hearts. In obedience, He surrendered Himself to tears and pain and agony. He got involved. His heart ached. His blood ran.
Because Love is just another word for Sacrifice. And Sacrifice always invites Redemption.
So let's open doors, and let's come out from behind our glass walls.
May we move our hearts close to the beauty and the pain of the relationships around us. May we refuse to keep our safe distance because, praise God, Jesus didn't.