Cost & the cross - let me tell you.

I no longer believe that love, like candy in a parade, is wasted if it falls through the cracks.  Service doesn’t require a willing recipient.

Love doesn’t either, not really.

But it does require great power.

And we have been given it.

“Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8)

I am reading Erin Loechner’s book, “Chasing Slow,” and it is unraveling me.

(Though let’s be honest, I was never particularly raveled to begin with.)

There is a quote I love from a Tana French novel – “Someone else may have dealt the hand, but I picked it up off the table, I played every card, and I had my reasons.”  This was my mantra for a long time; recognizing that I couldn’t do much about my circumstances, but what I could control, I did. There’s nothing wrong with control, inherently.  Until it becomes your identity, your security, your pride.  As it was mine.

I’ve always believed there is a price to be paid when you say yes, when you choose vulnerability over security, when you ask for forgiveness and when you offer it, when you enter into disagreement.  I was proud of myself for willingly paying the price, especially as the price is often pain; before I realized that’s not willingness at all, but a resentful, bitter kind of love.  An oxymoron.

What it’s taken me time to learn in life is that there is also a cost to every flip side of the coin: to saying no, to ignoring conflict for the sake of security, to walking away from something hard to something safer.  Sometimes that’s what risk or right looks like.  There’s pain there, too.

I keep flipping the coin like I’ll be able to make sense of which side is heads and which is tails and what in the world does that mean for me, anyway?

And also, which is more important: the cost, or whether you can pay it?

If you can’t answer the second without the answer to the first, here are two things I know for sure – together they answer both.  They are the only answer I have.

We are free to give love without fear.

Because God covers the cost.

It’s not that the price no longer exists.  Life will still wreck your head and break your heart.  Not on purpose; that’s just the way life is.  We live in a broken world, and sometimes we are broken, too.  The decisions we make and the things that happen around us will ask something of us.

But heads or tails, if you are walking with God, steeped in grace and seeking truth, God covers the cost.  We were never meant to bear the weight of every circumstance, every choice alone.  He has forever promised to enter in and carry what we cannot, and that is why Christ bore the cross.

And because Love has already borne the cross, I can walk into and out of any situation knowing that I love out of a place of power.  It’s still a risk, and it still might have a price, and yes, there’s a decent chance that the price is painful.  But it’s not a pain or price that’s permanent.

A mentor once showed me a diagram with two cylinders.  The cylinders are you.  They are also me; they are each of us.  There are two of them: there is the lie; and then there is reality.  Let me tell you.

The lie is that your cylinder has a hole in the bottom.  It can’t fill fast enough to stay full, because life is always dripping out, wasting away.  And if you could just be full – if you could just meet the difference between the top of your cylinder and the contents of your heart as life leaks out – you would be happy.  You would be free.

The reality – and oh, how you have to hear this – the reality is the opposite of the lie.  The antonym to “lie” is “truth,” and this is steeped in truth – but more importantly, it is what is actually real around you, if you would choose to see it and believe it.  The reality is that your cylinder is whole.  And what is pouring into you, filling you to overflowing, is the love and grace of God.  You lack nothing.  There is no distance between your fulfillment and the top of your cylinder; in fact, your cylinder is filled so full that it begins to spill over the sides.  This is when you begin to learn to love the world around you out of the same love that fills you every day.

The story of the cylinders is challenging.  It asks us to step out of the lie, to choose to believe in what we cannot always see until we begin to see it.  I do not always feel full.  I do not always feel whole.  But when I call the lie for what it is, I begin to recognize reality.  And I learn what it is to feel full of a grace and love that’s beyond me because I am empty of myself; to feel whole because the pieces have been mended by the gentle hand of God.  He sits with us in our pain, He bandages our brokenness and weeps over old wounds on our hearts.  Then he calls us to step out of our lies and into His glory, because the ultimate price has already been paid.  And because I am ever learning this, I am learning I can care deeply without fear of the cost, and everything I get is so much better, richer, deeper than anything I might lose.

This is reality.  You are already full to overflowing.  You are whole.  The price has been paid, the cost covered.  You are free from fear. You are free to love.

By the way. Do you know who is having the most fun at the parades?  Do you know who is granted the biggest smile?

It is she who is throwing the candy, of course.
— Erin Loechner, "Chasing Slow"