Tall Staircases and Beautiful Girls: On Competing with Jesus to Mend Broken Hearts

I wonder if it’s an easy go, all of this poor and weary and sick and tired and can’t take it anymore.  I wonder if all this sloshing home in the cold to a warm hearth in the front of the sanctuary is an unkind strategy.  Because who isn’t ready to love and be loved then, when the shit is slung and the head is hung low– anything, anything, I’ll take anything to alleviate this…

Jesus is taking on the sad hearted, again, rubbing mud in their eyes and drawing pictures in their dirt.  The weak have fallen and scraped their knee again, and who should be waiting but their old pal.  And I feel tricked.  Because there is no easier job than being the one to pick a toddler up from under their armpits as they run to you screaming from a recent misadventure.  There is no easier job than consoling the blubbering creature in the crook of your arm while they let it out, let it out, let it out…  and no more powerful feeling than predicting the future antiseptic (This will sting a little) and the Mercy of Acknowledgment with the final Band-aid.

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We’ve been set up, again.  We were tossed in here with sharp sticks and tall stairwells, black ice and car accidents, television and beautiful girls who swindle our hearts.  We are walking through the final level of Mario with fire around us and a dinosaur monster ahead, and only the lame promise of a pretty peach princess or a brand new start for winning– a start when everything is the same, but this time black and white.

And we are grateful, grateful, grateful at being gouged again and again.

My friend is suffering from a broken heart.  He is running scenarios and summoning courage, treading dark places and forming new allegiances, stumbling through the Five Stages of Grief, then wandering back to see if Step Two or Three or One still holds any use.  With my Someone, we three watch funny shows and eat spicy curry, take walks and read excerpts from poetry books, drink black coffee and dirty martinis, and blur the lines of what it means to love someone or god or life or ourselves.

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My Someone and I tell secrets to each other when we are not with our friend.  We say things like It’s so good to have our pal with us all the time and We hate that he is sad, but we are so happy he is ours.  There is that pull again.  There is that image: sharp sticks, big stones, and a Jesus at the end of the tunnel.  So when our friend says things of gratitude to us, I shirk.  No, no, no, I think, Don’t you see that the sadness is not forever?  That soon you will no longer be this way?  That when at last your sadness is happiness you will go on to love again and we will be your friends for sometimes?  That we will miss cold nights and long talks?

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I think I am coming to the reason of it all, now.  For those few adolescent years, I was looking for a way to lose my salvation.  I was not old enough to cash out my virginity, not courageous or stupid enough for drugs and drinking.  But I was searching my tracks for backsliding, narrowing in on the crumbly piece of Heavenly Reassurance until it was dust.  Because then, when a lie about my whereabouts or an impure thought about Tom Hanks wrestled my redeemed self to the ground, I could run headlong to a Savior.  Every week, I found a new reason for Jesus to sop up my fabricated guilt with a hush, hush and five long, peaceful stanzas of How Great Thou Art.

I might blame it on too many Disney movies, or the oppressive gender stereotypes in which I was expected to maintain to keep from emasculating my Lord, or maybe just a classic case of evangelical Christian guilt. Regardless, if there wasn’t a problem, I had no reason to approach the Throne Room.  So I was always having problems.  Black ice.  TV.  Beautiful girls.  Because Jesus was always just a little disappointed in my happiness.  He was always a bit soured by his uselessness in situations of straight A’s and school plays.

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It is an easy tactic, these open arms to broken hearts.  Jesus is making bank in love through loss.  But maybe I am sorry for this version of God.  Because I am watching my friend’s heart mend incrementally, and that fear of this time where we all huddled close is feeling less like a place we loved and more like a place we were as we love the place we are in now.  And what Jesus is missing out on here is the chance to teeter at the top of tall staircases with a band of heartsick huddlers below, taking turns falling and catching, falling and catching.  And neither the one falling or the one catching is gaining more– neither is more grateful.  And here, we are always on the brink of happiness.

During the snowstorm a few weeks ago, my Someone and I were charged with keeping a 6 year nephew and his little sister alive for a weekend.  While we fluttered through our last dreams on that Sunday morning, the nephew paced upstairs and searched for ways to not be alone.  When the morning light finally overtook him, he wandered to our dark basement hallway and began wailing outside our door.  His eye!  His eye!  It was swollen and sad and potentially broken!  My Someone jumped from bed to the light to investigate, finding nothing.  I remembered my small Sunday mornings and called the skinny creature into our dark room.  I squinted and got close to his face.  Aha!  There, I see it.  Here in the darkness it is so easy to see– you, little one, have a case of the nightmares.  It is so good that you came here, to someone who knows these things, to someone who has such practice in willing nightmare hangovers away.  Here!  We will go upstairs!  We will push a wet towel to this broken eye!  We will look carefully and say hmmmm in an investigative tone!  We will look astonished as the cold wet cloth seemed to have cured this broken eye!  We will promise pancakes with bananas and brown sugar and talk about how strange that the eye was broken but now fixed, and note never at all that we may have just been lonely and needing to not be lonely anymore!

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Yes, it is an easy tactic, these open arms to broken hearts.  It is an easy tactic these wet towels to broken eyes.  But maybe Jesus has it right, too– to make it easy to say what we don’t mean to understand what we do.  My eye is broken (I am lonely).  My heart is broken (I am lonely).  I am lonely (I want banana pancakes).

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