Love Well: Live Given

They don’t tell you this – that Love is only known by the fools. You just feel it sometimes, the ache of love, of all the things, right there underneath your breastbone.

The end of March, I stop everything, just before April shows up on the 1st with all her foolishness, and I watch a 92-year-old man lean over a casket and hold his face in his gnarled wrinkly hands and weep over the stiff, frail body of his wife.

I can’t turn my eyes away from his hands. “The best use of your hands is always love. The best way to say you love is always time. The best time to love is always now.” ~ (The Broken Way)

He’d brought her dinner the last several years, washed her hair with those hands, turned back her sheets and spooned close to her every night for a span of seventy years.

When they soundlessly roll her casket out of the church, his son pushes his creaking wheelchair behind her in that oak box. And the old man bends into this sobbing grief that fills the sanctuary, and all of the farmers in their uncomfortable ties and all us farmers’s wives in our pressed black skirts, we bow our heads and listen to his unashamed grief.

This is the sound of a fool who gave his heart away to one woman for a stretch of 72 vowed years.

Is this what a heart transplant feels like, when a lifetime of love turns out to give your heart to someone else? There wasn’t one of us standing there yesterday who didn’t know it: His heart’s inside that casket, inside of her.

“Blessed are those who are sad, who mourn, who feel the loss of what they love – because they will be held by the One who loves them. There is a strange and aching happiness only the hurting know – for they shall be held.” (The Broken Way) It’s God who gives us our first heart transplant, who gives us a heart of flesh – and then we keep giving our hearts away, bits of us transplanted out of our aloneness and into the hollow spaces of others.

Not one of us said it then, that – Love is for the fools and the givers, for the pourers who tip their hearts right over, for the riskers who lay their whole hearts down on tables without a wall or a shield in sight and feel afraid but give their vulnerable heart anyway.

The end of March, right after I left Mrs. B’s funeral, right after I feel in my chest the ache of Mr. B’s heart transplant, I stop, just before April shows up on the 1st with all her foolishness, and I watch a man say goodbye to his girl at the airport, watch how she buries her head into his offered shoulder, how he strokes back her hair, how she mouths into his neck – “I don’t want to go.”

He’d walked her to class, given her his coat, his arm, a necklace, the shirt off his own back – bits of his heart. She’d given him her a ready smile, an always listening ear, always the meeting of her eyes.

And there, before she steps into that airport security line, his arm around her waist pulls her in, and he looks down at the floor, looks for words, tries to fight back his heart giving way all liquid:

“You . Just.. Just – I have no other place to go. you are my heart, you are my home.” He can’t stop his chin from trembling. Our heart’s true home is never inside of us – but inside of someone else.

Inside of Him, inside of people.

We are always lost until our heart makes it home inside of someone else. Our lives are unfulfilling if we only let our hearts fill us – instead of filling other people’s broken places. Fulfilling lives happen when we give our hearts to fill other people’s empty spaces.

When he said to her, “You – you are my heart, you are my home” — she looked up at him, looked him in the eye, and her heart leaked down her cheek in this singular gleaming tear.

“The art of living is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made into love to give.” ~ (The Broken Way)

The end of March, I stop, after they drive away with Mrs. B’s casket with Mr. B’s heart transplanted into her after seventy years of loving her, after the planes fly with hearts, hearts making their home outside of the wavers and the weepers, and just before April shows up on the 1st with all her foolishness.

I stop in the early evening in a doorway, watch our youngest boy in a deep sleep on the couch. In too deep of a sleep. We shake his shoulders but he won’t wake, won’t open his eyes. “Test his blood,” I murmur the words, gently shaking the pale white boy, his sister looking for his blood tester. Another sister runs to the barn, calls for the Farmer to come. When we prick his finger, press the tip for drops of blood, dip a test strip into the pooling scarlet, there’s a circle of us waiting for the number to pop up on the tester’s screen, to tell us what runs through the veins of our diabetic boy.

The startlingly low number that shocks the screen in his sister’s hand sends us all into a desperate whirl – a brother lifts the boy, a sister wipes off the sweat beading, the Farmer gets him to open his mouth, and we try to get him to drink juice, to eat an emergency roll of candy, before he slips into a hypoglycemic coma.

And I look around at us. This is us.  Us given to each other. The heart’s true home is addressing the brokenness of other hearts.

When the boy starts to come to, his dad, still in barn clothes, sits with him, steadying hand on his shoulder, eyes reassuring his boy, waiting for color return to the boy’s cheeks. His older sister gathers up his diabetic supplies, returns everything to his bag. His brother heads back out to the barn and birthing sows and all our unfinished chores.

I scoop up the baby, change her sagging diaper, smooth back her black hair, cup her grinning face, plant a row of kisses across her forehead. Answer a text from our oldest son who couldn’t find a bed in a hostel last night in Florence, so he pulled on every piece of clothing he had in his backpack, slept on the cold street outside the locked airport, waiting for his 6:30 am flight out.

This is us being stretched thin and our lives become thin places to see the hand of God and when our hearts find its home outside of ourselves, our hearts rest in Him.

Yes, sure, they tell you love is a choice. They go around telling you that love is a verb – but no one tells you exactly what verb that precisely is.

You could look around you and think Love is a verb and maybe that looks like:

Love wants?

Love controls?

Love demands?

Love keeps score?

Love self-focuses?

Love manipulates?

Love self-protects?

Someone should tell us exactly what verb love is. Love is a verb – and that verb is givenness. Love is givenness.

God is love and He gets to define love: For God so loved the world – that He gave.

That’s what love is: Love gives. There is no other way to express love apart from givenness. The essence of love is living given.

“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back-given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way.”

Love gives. Love gives its life for another life – that is the definitive proof of love. Love is not that we get to feel something – but that we give ourselves to someone.

The end of March, I stop, before April walks in with everyone acting like fools at the beginning, I stop and am hushed by Christ carrying the cross. Love always reaches out – so if love isn’t shaped like a Cross – it isn’t really love. Love self-gives – not self-focuses.

Mr. B had loved her and a casket would never change that. Give away your heart and you transplant your heart into eternity.

The Farmer helps our boy with diabetes to his feet. I witness how the son looks over at his dad, how his dad smiles.

A plane is flying through night, into the sun, one man’s heart at home in his girl.

And at the end of every single day, my friend, Mei, she, without fail, asks me two questions, that answers the meaning to being, to everything, that are forming my heart:

“How did you give thanks today? And how did you live given?”

Love is a verb and that verb is give – and the most powerful word in the world is given and love gives thanks and love lives given.

I know no other way to the abundant life. because this is the only way Jesus lived.

Only the life that is given – gives any joy.

Only the life that is surrendered – wins joy.

Only the life that you lose – wins the life you want to find.

At the end of March, I stop and read that there’s a comet that will fall across the sky on April Fools’ Day, making its closest pass to earth ever on record.

That one blazing comet will fall close over our farm boy with his bag full of insulin needles, will fall over Mr. B hunched over the memories of Mrs. B carrying his transplanted heart into eternity, over a plane winging toward the dawn of home and open arms. And all the loving fools could look up to the heavens and see this comet of light, this light given.

And there it is beating at the heart of the universe, beating like a steadying rhythm in all of us: Live given, live given, live given.


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