(Fair warning: I talk about vulnerability and God in this post. If the topic is not to your liking, here’s a link to a video of a bunny eating raspberries.)
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” – C.S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”
If you want to learn to play the guitar, you should be warned of one thing. It’s going to hurt.
I’m not kidding.
When I started out, my finger tips hated me. Pressing down on the steel strings of the guitar made my fingers’ nerve endings cuss in anger. It felt like fire coursing through my digits. Eventually, after keeping up with the lessons and practicing often, I developed calluses on my fingers. I’m not the best guitarist, but I can play Jars of Clay’s “Sinking” or Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” without crying from pain. Calluses are necessary to play the guitar. Calloused hearts, on the other hand, can mean death.
Did that sound a bit cheesy?
Sorry. Let’s move on.
I have a hard time trusting people; it’s part of my personality. When I get to the point where I can trust an individual, it’s a big deal. I’m trusting this person with my hopes, fears, and personal issues with the understanding that they’ll guard my heart and I’ll guard theirs. If I could, I’d throw a party with noisemakers and pinatas every time I started trusting a new person; that’s how serious it is to me. Unfortunately, since we are fallen humans, I’ve been betrayed by people I confided in. The result has been broken relationships, my shattered heart, and a reluctance to trust anyone again.
Before I continue, I should clarify, I’m not necessarily talking about romantic relationships here; friendships have been lost this way.
I had a close, male friend in college that I had known since high school. He could be flaky and hurt me a couple of times when we were younger. The infractions were minor and I forgave each time. I trusted him with a lot since he had shown himself to be loyal for the most part. At least that’s what I thought. He showed his true colors; he was selfish and only came to me when he needed something. When I was in a jam, needed a shoulder to cry on, or hoped for a birthday greeting, he was never around. The relationship died and so did my desire to trust anyone.
It wasn’t long after that event I built a wall around my heart. No one was allowed in.
Not the friends who were faithful.
Not my family who loved me.
Not even God, who knows me better than I know myself.
“Having a broken heart is too painful,” I told myself. “Why risk being vulnerable with anyone again?” I kept my heart under lock and key, and then I swallowed the key.
The above quote from C.S. Lewis is dead on. I found that the more I sheltered my heart from the inevitable heartbreaks that comes in this life, the more it becomes “unbreakable”. Having an “unbreakable” heart was my coping mechanism when anything bad happened to me. But this meant I became a selfish jerk that only thought about her own needs and wants, everyone else be damned. It was easier for me to push people out of my life rather than risk getting it crushed again. My heart became callous and impervious to pain. It also started to become impervious to love and joy. Little moved me.
Having a fragile heart meant weakness to me, and I didn’t want to give the impression that I was weak.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)
I saw how much I hurt the people around me and hated the person I became. Going from a stony heart to one that was fragile to both pain and joy wasn’t easy. It took a lot of humility and surrendering on my part to get to a place where my heart was vulnerable again. It felt like God took a chisel and a sledgehammer, and cracked my stone heart. That’s not to say I didn’t put up a fight; though I desperately needed the “operation,” the process hurt like hell.
The struggle isn’t over. During difficult moments, I’ve longed for the safety of my calloused heart. It’s an inviting cocoon.
Yet, I don’t want to go back to that state of existence, because that’s all I was doing: existing, not living.