Get out the chisel...


Over the last year, we've acquired a few barn cats (and by acquired, I mean that one showed up at the door, we fed it, and it never left.  Except to go get impregnated and then return with two more mouse-killers.)  To our girls, these kittens have become like children--spending hours each day loving on and caring for them.  In an unfortunate accident a few months ago, our little guy named Scout lost in the game of Cat vs. Car.  (Now, I know some most of you are not cat people, but hang in there--this story isn't just about our feline companions.)  This was especially devastating for our oldest, as this was her first encounter with losing something so close to her.  As a mom, you don't know how to comfort, you can't find words that will take away the pain.  So I found that just holding her and wiping her tears would be enough.  But I succinctly remember her looking at me and saying, "I wish I wouldn't have allowed myself to get so close.  I wish I wouldn't have cared so much."

And there it was. Like a knife in my heart, hearing the pain coming from my baby girl.  The pain of allowing her heart to care.  The pain that came from being vulnerable, if only to a cat.  Putting herself out there, allowing feelings to well up inside her, allowing herself to care deeply about something.  Only to get hurt. Only to be wounded.

It was then that all I could think of was cliche, but it fit for the moment:  "Better to love and to lose, than to never love at all."  Although her grief couldn't let her agree, I knew that she would someday understand.   

What came next was totally predictable:  FEAR.  Fear that it would happen to the other two cats. Fear that if she continued to care for them, her heart may end up broken one more time.  I had no words.  I couldn't say, "Don't worry, it won't happen again."  I couldn't promise her it wouldn't. I couldn't promise that we wouldn't repeat this scenario sometime in the future.  All I could do was encourage her to continue to love.  Continue to care for.  Continue to invest in those kittens while they're here with us.  And she did.  Even through the grief, she didn't let walls go up around her heart. She didn't let fear stand guard and keep her from loving on them.  

But daggum! Wouldn't you know it.....just last week, the mama cat Snickers played too close to the road.  My heart sank as I drove up on the scene.  "HOW AM I GOING TO TELL THE GIRLS? HOW WILL THEY HANDLE THIS? I CAN'T DO THIS, LORD! I CAN'T DO THIS!"  

As I sat there with our oldest, as before, I had no words.  Her fears HAD come true.  She had dared to love again, and she had lost.  She had opened up her heart to Snickers, and her heart was broken one more time.   

Like I said, this story really isn't about cats.  It's about daring to love.  Daring to open yourself up to others, being vulnerable, showing others the real you--even if there's a risk of getting hurt. With each passing year, I find that life experiences make this hard to do.  Friendships gone bad, family members who say mean things, social media providing a platform for anyones opinion...they've all been contributors.  And throw in there a society that has conditioned me to believe I should wear a mask at all times--it's difficult to allow anyone to see the real Johnna. The insecure, afraid of failing, needing people's approval Johnna.  Although I try to be transparent, it's not always popular, and I can become the butt of the joke.  Little by little, brick by brick, a wall goes up around my heart. "Don't care about people. Don't let them in. They'll just hurt you." is what I tell myself.  

Think about it--just like the walls of a fortress keep others out, walls built up around our heart do the same.  Life in a fortress is a lonely, anxious, and sad one.  Always on guard, trying to guess when the enemy might advance.  If you're avoiding certain relationships because of fear, or if you're keeping a distance from people because you're afraid they won't like the real you, then I want to encourage you to start removing the by one by one.  Don't hold back.  I encourage you to press in.  Press into the pain, feel the fears, and take down the guard that a hard life and mean people have caused you to build.  Might you be wounded? Yes, I'm afraid so. There's always that chance.  But when you start chiseling away at the brick wall, and you begin to be vulnerable and to let others in, they will feel permission to do the same. Together, you can start experiencing the real, authentic life that God created you for.

"Above all, love each other deeply, 
because love covers a multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8

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