Little girl speaks more everyday, the latest being, “eat birthday cake!” She very recently progressed from repeating individual words, my favorite being “tea cup,” to four and five-word sentences. Her favorite phrase, however, consists of two words, “Oh, dear!” Yogurt on her finger evokes an “Oh, dear!” She knocks a bottle to the ground and with crocodile tears welling up and overflowing her eyes, exclaims “Oh, dear!”
She remains extremely particular. Before the night’s adieu, animal friends, water bottle, and any book that she can spy must assume their “proper” places on the bed. Seeing the closet door ajar, she points and says “shut it,” and then worriedly stares at her two baby dolls who have slid a few inches down from their placement on the rocking chair. I tie a blanket seat belt around them. “Safe!” she sighs and settles under her blanket, with curls framing her head on the pillow. A farewell wave looks akin to a royal dismissal. Oh dear, indeed!
The next day she said “Hug, Mama, hug?” with arms stretched open as I knelt on the floor. “Yes, Sweetie, Mama wants a hug.” “Daddy?” “Yes! Daddy too.” She runs to him shyly and embraces his calves.
“Brothers?” she then asks with a twinkle in her eye that bespeaks the delight of giving. “Yes, your brothers would like a hug.” A beautiful bundle of particularity, emotion, and love runs down the hall with arms flung wide, ready to give, and receive, her brothers.
Her unfettered affection and my memories collide, reminding me that giving and sharing require open hands and open arms that make one vulnerable and create the possibility of rejection. I remember Jesus, who through His great love for us stretched out his arms on the cross. Not everyone accepts His offer of the forgiveness of sin; not everyone wants Him.
In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis wrote, “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 Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
We can choose to be safe, denying our need for love and rejecting the greatest act of love. Or, we can open ourselves to life’s biggest joys and greatest hurts, and humbly accept Christ’s work on our behalf. I choose to be vulnerable, for God is powerful enough to work all things, even hard and hurtful things, together for good.