Keeping a soft heart in a hurting world

A discarded toy lies in the middle of the floor dropped by my little one, the cuddly, squishy one with the baby voice. Yesterday I would have been frustrated by the ease with which he thwarts my efforts to keep the house tidy. Today, that toy is a gift to me. It is a reminder that I have him, he is with me. I am grateful. 
Last night I watched as child after child was carried in through the glass doors - a parent bearing the weight of a body, the weight of responsibility and the anxiety that can accompany those who deeply care. Little arms clung around necks, a grasp at comfort and safety in the middle of their hurt. My small boy was inside with my husband and I sat in the car with my oldest who was sleeping. The cold night air seemed to penetrate the car body and so I kept the heater running, wanting to find my own piece of comfort in this dark night.
I knew Isaac had an ear infection. Simple, really. All we had to do was get a prescription of antibiotics so he could start getting well again. I ran through my mind all the other times we had been at the hospital with the kids. What about the early morning when I had taken Isaac to ER with a very high fever that had been going on for too long? What about when Luke had to have a CAT scan for concussion? What about when I walked in the doors of Longmont ER, our two boys with me, to be faced with the news that my brother-in-law had died suddenly in front of his kids? You see, it's easy to receive the gifts when it's good news but how in the world do we keep our hearts alive when we are faced with overwhelming pain and things that we don't understand? The heart naturally wants to shut down, to go into self-protection mode as we learn how to survive in this sin-scarred world. Love grows cold (Matt 24:12). 
Last night I thought about Jesus, about the pain and trauma that He faced in His life, and I was left staggered at His capacity to love. What kind of Man is this that He could endure being mocked and beaten, knowing that He was facing a torturous death on a cross, and still say,
"Father, forgive them, for they do know what what they are doing" (Lk 23:34) ?
Jesus loved beyond anything I can comprehend, even in the midst of incredible pain. He is the picture of love, the One we look to. I am very familiar with the natural human tendency to shut down the heart to avoid feeling the pain, but it also shuts down love. Jesus is the only One who has embraced the full extent of human suffering with a heart fully alive. I know that I need the Holy Spirit to work that love in me to keep the heart soft, the clay pliable, the ground fertile and watered. Without the Holy Spirit I really do become hard and dry, loving self-protection more than I love this Man and the ones He has placed in my life.
There is no way to keep a heart soft without Him because pain comes, it has come and it will come. He is the only answer because He knows that road - the road of pain - and has loved despite it and because of it. 
I am grateful this morning that my boy will come down stairs and play with that toy he left, discarded. I was heart broken when my brother-in-law died, but what do I do with all that except acknowledge that Jesus knows. He knows my pain, has walked that pain and still chosen to love. I can't choose what will happen to me today, tomorrow or next year, but I can choose the way I walk through life. I want to tear down my idol of self-protection and love fully, completely, with all that He puts inside of me.

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