How do you love when you know it will break your heart? When my family started their 24-hour drive back to Wisconsin after dropping me off at college, my heart ached. I was in a foreign land. People didn’t dress the same. Their manner of doing business was different. The houses looked shabbier, and the stores more hipster. I felt like Abraham in Canaan. Except he took his family with him, and I knew only one person here. That night was lonely.
But I found friends quickly. With them I shared secrets and sorrows. I worried over and with them. I learned to love what they did, and in so doing learned to love them. Then, the seams of our friendship began to pull apart until it lay in a torn heap. I instinctively pulled away from them and everyone else. After that, I gave away my heart sparingly. By the time I moved back across the country, I left only one real friend.
I planted my heart deep in the dark dirt of my native soil. Then new people began to dig it out. I let them dig for some time, let them see some of my heart. But as soon as I had an inkling that I might leave them (or them me), I began burrowing under the dirt again. If I kept my heart hidden, no one could break it again.
So, when I flew away to Tanzania, Africa, I was surprised that, somehow the Tanzanians found a way to burrow through my barriers. Even more surprising, was that, despite myself, I let them. This time when I left, I left my pieces of my heart scattered throughout Tanzania. Knowing that I would likely not see these holders of my heart until heaven, I wept. But the fact that I would see them in heaven also gave me hope. In the months before leaving, I talked often to my dear ones about heaven and our certain and spectacular reunion. We loved to imagine the day when, in glory, we would run to embrace one another. It was because of this sure hope that I left my new home not only in tears but with joy. In the months since, on days when my heart aches to be back in Tanzania, I hold fast to that hope of eternity.
Indeed, it is only because I have an eternal hope that I can muster the muscle to continue uprooting and replanting in new soil. When I am tempted to burrow below again, I remember that though I will certainly say goodbye frequently, there is a day when goodbyes don’t exist. Though sin or miles or death may separate us now, it cannot in eternity.
I am not the only one who has said goodbye. I am not the only one who has given my heart to someone just to have it, in one way or another, broken. I am not the only one for whom loving wounds. I am surrounded by faithful men and women who have stood by their children’s graves, who have wept to see a dear friend move, whose family has betrayed them—whose hearts have been broken and broken and broken. And yet, they continue to love deeply. They continue to give their hearts to others, not knowing if those to whom they entrust it will read the warning “handle with care.” They continue to love regardless of a sure goodbye. They continue to love recklessly because Jesus did.
Jesus, the God man, the one who knows the hearts of all men, gave His heart to those who betrayed, doubted, abandoned Him. And He, unlike us, knew just how much it would wound. Think of how Jesus prayed for Peter, though He knew Peter would deny Him (Matthew 26:69-75). Or how He invested in Judas as one of the twelve disciples, though He knew Judas would sell Him for a handful of silver (John 6:71). He poured out His life blood for sinners, prostitutes, criminals (Romans 5:6). And today He continues to pursue and woo His bride despite her constant unfaithfulness (Hosea 2:14-16). What could motivate Jesus to do this? Joy.
What is this joy that has power to motivate Jesus to endure the wrath of God and scorn of men, love the unlovable? The joy of bringing many sons and daughters to glory (Hebrews 2:10). And what does it mean to bring many sons and daughters to glory? It means to redeem them from sin and death by His perfect life and shed blood (Ephesians 1:7). It means to sanctify them through the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13). It means, by the same Spirit, to complete His work of restoration in them until they are holy as He (Philippians 1:6). It is to reclaim the dead and bring them to new and eternal life with Him (Colossians 2:13). It is to adopt lost sons and daughters for His Father’s eternal family (Galatians 4:5). In short, the joy that motivated Jesus to love fearlessly was the surety of heaven.
Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we too have this surety. And because of this surety, we are free to give away our hearts. We can do this for two reasons. First, the hope of heaven for ourselves. The apostle Peter writes that we have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5). This means that no matter who may betray us or what we may suffer here, we—who are “born again into the living hope”—are guaranteed eternal life with Christ (1 Peter 1:3). We may lose everything and everyone, but we will never lose this. Our heart may shatter, but it will be whole and healed in heaven. We can hold our hearts, saying with the Psalmist, “my flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). And we can say this, praying that those we love can say it too.
The second reason Jesus life, death and resurrection frees us to love is the hope of heaven for others. The Lord promised to bring many sons to glory, and to do so through us. Jesus commissioned His followers (and all believers) to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). One of the primary ways we accomplish this is through loving freely. We first love those who are already God’s sons and daughters: the church (Galatians 6:10). We love them here on earth because we will spend eternity loving them in heaven. And we are free to do this because even if they betray us, or if we have to say goodbye, we know that we will be dear friends in heaven. But we also love the church here because others will see this love and know we are God’s disciples (John 13:35). Our love will attract others to Christ. But it is not enough to display God’s love to the church, we must also love the watching ones. We love them, sharing our lives and Christ with them, in hope that they too will join us in heaven. And we are free to do this because, even if they reject us, Christ will not. Besides, who knows that God will not use our fumbling efforts to lead another son to glory. So, how do we love when we know it will break our heart? We love by the power of the Holy Spirit and for the hope of heaven. Loving, giving away your heart, is risky. But the reward of heaven far outweighs any risk. Let us then, like Christ did before us, run toward others for the joy set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Elisabeth Bloechl is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, house cleaner, and aspiring writer. She lives in Indiana with her husband and daughter.