I missed Ed Cyzewski’s Hazardous Faith synchroblog last week, in part because of this post’s topic. But it’s a theme that’s been swirling around in my mind since I heard about it, and then it seemed to apply to everything, everywhere. Do you know how that goes? So even though I missed it and this is late, my heart needed to write it out. Thanks for grace.
“It’s like… I just don’t want any part of it,” he told me honestly, though he knew.
I get it, this impulse to push it away. This was messy, and it was too close to home, but what does that mean? That we crave safety, sure. That we want clean, that we desire “the best” for our family. But what is best? Is safety best? Security? Is that how we are to live?
Someone that I love, someone I’ve fought to love for years, was under the weight of the world that day. It was partly (mostly) his choices, but he’s also walking around with a hurt heart and hurt brain from his early days of survival and I doubt he knows where his motivations are born.
From my (safe) observation point, it’s classic attachment disorder. It’s what I’ve read about in my own adoptions. He’s a case study in how it manifests later — the lying, the charm and superficial attachment to many, the almost-impossibility of forming a lasting partnership, of really letting someone in, the impulse to destroy a good thing, the tendency to blame others.
It’s equal parts terrifying and depressing. My heart aches with compassion and quakes with fear.
He has gone through horrific pain and separation abuse from nearly everyone he should have been able to trust, and I think God has just asked of us, love him love him love him.
“But we are part of it,” I say. “We’re in it. Someone’s got to do it.”
* * *
Going to Africa to help and heal and listen to stories and write them out — that’s pretty safe. They need clean water; they need sterile birthing supplies; they need sustainable solutions. External poverty is complex in cause, but the needs are simple and straightforward.
When I think of the cost of following Christ to Africa, I know leaving my children and my work and my home is costing us something, I do. I’ll start to feel that sting soon.
But when I think of the cost of following Jesus in loving this young man, of helping him, of pouring into his life sacrificially, of helping him heal?
If I’m honest, I want to help him, but I don’t want it to cost me anything.
Africa is there. It costs money and time to go over there; it costs shreds of my heart that I’ll leave there. It’ll linger, but then it’ll be done in a way and I’ll be back to my normal life.
But him — he’s right here. How to give him grace when it feels unfair to my family? How to show him love when his choices roil anger and frustration and pain? How to help him when I see the same patterns over again, when it feels hopeless?
* * *
If it were just me, I would keep that relationship in a neat box, with permanent-marker lines. I would have all kinds of lines about boundaries and healthy emotional distance and loving but not enabling.
But then there’s a woman who has long quietly showed me Christ, has always loved sacrificially. The way she loves me and others, it disturbs my “healthy distance” ideals.
Sometimes I want to tell her that she doesn’t have to do that, that she shouldn’t put herself on the line like that. For the young man with the choices, she agreed to be a buffer, to be a safe landing place for his most recent relationship that’s currently exploding in spectacular fashion. Beyond my concerns for her safety, I was also worried about her heart. I wanted to protect her from the mess. I was annoyed that she agreed to it.
In the end, she has a broken-in door in her basement and a traumatized heart.
Those results should show that I was right. But it’s not that simple when you look at her example: It’s not that simple when you look at Christ.
* * *
Did Jesus have boundaries?
He tried to get away for respite on his disciples’ boat, but weren’t they still there with him, always needing? When he asked for a break and the crowd still wanted him, didn’t he capitulate and keep giving giving giving?
Wouldn’t we call that enabling today? Wouldn’t we say that for his own emotional health, he should have sent them away? That space is good for us, even if it means that others are going to have to wait?
He saw the crowd and he had compassion on them.
And I see I have so much to learn about how much my selfishness and desire for my own safety. I see how my talk of “boundaries” is really about maintaining a bubble of safety around me, around my family.
* * *
When we help people far away, it’s simple to have compassion on them, to give what we can, to see a need and donate, even give sacrificially.
But inviting people into our own lives? Exposing my children to their mess, trying to explain their brokenness in a way an 8-year-old or 6-year-old can understand? When I have to start thinking about their safety? That’s painful. That feels uncomfortable. That’s where I start counting how much this is costing me.
Helping others while insulating ourselves from their problems isn’t brave. Helping others by inviting them into our lives, by loving sacrificially and wrestling with them to understand, to help, to help heal? That’s Christ.
That’s where faith gets hazardous.
Check out Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus, by Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper. If you purchase before Sept. 9, you get a bundle of free e-books, too! Thanks for the prompt, Ed.