being a good christian teenager attending camps and youth group the one subject that I was taught about more often than anything else was relationships. the prevalent teaching idea was to guard your heart and not give anything away to someone unless you are going to spend the rest of your life with them. the rationale behind this is because once you give part of yourself away then you can’t give it away in the future. this idea that we only have a finite amount that we can pour out to other people seems to be in contest with teachings about loving everyone we meet.
let’s consider for a moment the idea of walking around barefoot. I am someone who isn’t particularly fond of wearing shoes and often wander around without shoes. when I first started walking around barefoot I pretty much stuck to the grassy areas. these were safe areas. pavement was sometimes okay but often could be too warm or even sharp. gravel was my worst enemy. the majority of surfaces simply overwhelmed my feet and rendered me incapable of moving.
over time though my feet adapted to the point where not only could I tolerate pavement and gravel but I could even run on just about any of the surfaces without overwhelming pain. the reason for this of course is that my feet developed thick calluses enabling them to deal with much greater strain. a similar scenario is found amongst guitar players. one hand develops calluses that enable them to create something beautiful without wearing out their fingertips.
I am going to suggest that we really need to develop a callused heart. now this immediately brings to mind people who have been hurt and are cold and closed off from others. this is funny, because in any other scenario developing a callus is considered a good thing. whether it is working in a field or playing an instrument the teaching is always “once you push past this initial stage you will be ready to truly perform.” so why then, in matters of the heart do we not follow a similar model.
it isn’t incompatible with the ideas of what we tell teenagers about love, whether in a relationship or people in general, in fact it falls quite in line with it. with a fresh heart you can get out of your depth and be hurt really quickly. the pain from loving someone, in any capacity, is inevitable. however like any other situation these experiences will build calluses that give us a choice. we can either choose to never love again because you want to dwell in the dullness, or we can chose to pick ourselves up and love in a more complete way the next time and the time after.
instead of letting pain and loss cripple us by teaching that we only have a finite amount to give we need to be teaching people that loving others deeply and completely isn’t something that even comes from us. it comes from God and we simply have the job of developing a layer of callus that will help us to navigate the rough edges of the gravel that is the people we meet. then we can run with the whole love thing.