The Ache

I’ve got an achey breaky heart these days. . .

and it kinda just snuck up on me.

Rewind with me to earlier this month.  My duff was happily glued to my couch while I was mindlessly caught up watching a tv show about a genetically modified super soldier, struggling with maintaining his humanity while wrestling with his manimal side.

It was about then when I felt it.

There was this ache in my chest.

Not unlike what I can imagine a heart attack might feel like, but it wasn’t that – it was deeper.  More emotion and less artery.

At first I just brushed it off thinking I was just wishing I was a mutant super soldier who moonlighted as a vigilante (“Yeah, I probably belong in some sort of weird comic-con crowd”, she says as she bashfully looks at the ground with her hands locked behind her back).

But two hours later as I was drifting off to sleep, I felt whispers of the ache again somewhere in the deepest parts of my heart.

Well, so naturally the cure for this type of ache had to be to watch more tv.

So that’s what I did.

And for a minute, it worked.  I had some relief, a little bit of distraction from my ache.

But then it came back with a vengeance. . .and my ache turned into something I couldn’t ignore anymore.

I realized I needed medical attention. . . of the God variety.

I haven’t felt an ache like that in a while, but I’ve found that it’s my heart’s way of crying out for God.

And while it’s not physically painful, it is uncomfortable and colors seem to fade and life sort of wilts a little.

Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death;
ardent love is as unrelenting as Sheol.
Love’s flames are fiery flames—
the fiercest of all.
Mighty waters cannot extinguish love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If a man were to give all his wealth for love,
it would be utterly scorned.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (HCSB)

I’ve tried to self-help the ache when it flares up.  You know, keep it distracted with busyness or push through the pain and just do what’s right.  Some people try to heal it with other people or sex or with food or with shopping or tv or books.  I mean really, we try to treat it with all of the weirdness of the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who sprays Windex on everything as a cure all.

But love is not so easily dissuaded, because it is as strong as death.

It’s unrelenting.

So what’s the cure for the ache?

It’s watching mutant super soldiers wrestle with their inner humanity.

I’m not contradicting myself – promise.

I was watching my mutant super soldier and do you know what kept him human?  Love and time (okay, fine and an occasional tranquilizer).

It was spending time with the love of his life and her reminding him of her love for him.  (Granted her mother turned him into the beast that he is now and her father is with the FBI secretly hunting him, but really what’s that compared to the epic love they share?)

So, back to reality. . .

We need love.

We crave love.

Which really, isn’t that all that our aches are telling us?

We keep that beastly ache at bay by being with the one that loves us best and the one who aches in return.

We ache because love is as strong as death.

So, I’ve been listening to the whispers of the ache in my heart.  And I’ve been clearing space in my schedule to just talk to God and to let him talk back.  Learning that there is an ebb and flow to this ache.  It’s God’s way of pulling us closer to himself.

And my own ache is lessening.

And this is where the battle is won and lost for our humanity and our hearts.  It is here, in what God calls the secret place.  It’s the place of spending time with him.  Not in that sterile, got to read 20 minutes of my Bible, pray for everyone on my list, maybe fast something, sort of way.  It’s more fluid, more intimate, more like falling in love.  It’s the place of, my heart is yours.  And from that place, desire is born to want, yeah, actually want, to read our Bibles and pray.

But without the ache first, nothing can follow.

Nothing should follow. Because anything that would, wouldn’t be love.

As for the genetically modified super soldier, I’ve got to go – his DNA is changing again and the unsanctioned FBI agent (the girlfriend’s father) has put out a hit on him and it looks like it’s gonna get really good. . .

Captain Hook and the Easter Bunny

Easter has come and gone leaving a wake of marshmallow bunnies and love-handles in it’s path.

Thanks mom, for playing accomplice to the Easter Bunny.

No really, my dying will-power thanks you.

Meanwhile, I’m writing  at Panera tonight or rather, I’m trying to.  I’ve got my headphones plugged into my laptop but I’m a fraud – I’m not listening to anything.   I’m snooping on the conversation of a couple of guys next to me.

I can’t help it.

It’s fascinating.

I’ll paint you the picture.  There is this guy probably mid 30’s who came and sat down with his Bible at a table with an older gentleman who, no lie, has a hook for a hand.

Yes, you read that right. . . I’m sitting 2 feet away from Captain Hook and I’m pretty sure he’s a Christian (‘though I’m not sure I want to ask him – just in case I’m wrong).

I wonder if he was in some whaling accident and if a Great White Whale got his arm.

Or maybe it was a crocodile?

But mostly I’m wondering if the loss of his arm is what caused him to turn to Jesus.  It seems to me that there is always a death that turns us to Jesus.  For me it was the death of my childhood, maybe for the good Cap’n, it was his arm.

Please don’t misunderstand me – God does not want horrible things to happen to us so that we turn to him – that’s manipulation and God does not manipulate.  On the other hand, he doesn’t want us to be consumed by pain and regret so he redeems even the dark parts of our lives if we let him.

So now somewhere between the Easter Bunny and Captain Hook, I’m thinking about the deaths we die.  More specifically the deaths we die so that others can live.

That’s the crux of what Easter is all about – Jesus died so that we could live.

We go to church, listen to the sermon, and we breathe a collective sigh of relief that our insurance premiums have been paid in full and our passes into heaven have been covered.  But sometimes we forget that the story doesn’t end there.

We are supposed to die too.

We are supposed to die so that others can live.

We are supposed to die to our selfishness.

Why?

Because it’s how we overcome  – and how others see love demonstrated on their behalf.

And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Revelation 12:11 (21st Century King James Version)

Sounds heavy and not entirely realistic in a culture where we don’t face the physical dangers of martyrdom that Christians in other countries face.

But we have the opportunity to die a thousand deaths every day.  . .

. . . to be the first to say “I’m sorry” and “I love you”

. . .to offer to help a friend in need by cleaning, cooking a meal or watching the kids

. . .to pray for someone else’s struggle instead of only our own

. . .to listen

. . .to pay for someone else’s meal

. . .to pick up the phone, just to say “hey, I heard you were having a rough go”

. . .to not trash-talk our co-workers

. . .to be the one to initiate restoration in our families

This list could go on forever, because our deaths will be as unique as we are.

For some it will be sacrificing time or money, maybe both.

For others it may be laying down a dream.

For me a lot of times it is sacrificing sleep – God has been known to wake me up at night to pray for specific people.

For Jesus, it was the cross.

Captain Hook has now been joined by 2 other guys making his group a scurvy crew of 4. . . and they are working through a men’s Bible study together.  I’m watching as he “walks the plank” – giving up his time to mentor these guys.  It’s pretty moving stuff – to watch one person sacrifice even the smallest thing for another.

Now if I could just figure out how to get those calories in my Easter candy to die so that my diet could live. . .