Sigh. Last week at work, a stray had several kittens and abandoned three of them. There was no way I was going to leave them to die. So, I strapped up with baby formula, heating pad and oral syringe. For hours, I nursed and cuddled, checking warmth.
The first night one of them passed away. I buried him in the backyard, sang the priestly blessing, spoke the Lord’s prayer and shed my tears. The next morning the second kitten passed away in my office.
Later that afternoon, the third kitten climbed onto my hand and lay there, purring affectionately. He began an adorable routine of sleeping, feeding, and purring. The little guy would strain his head up toward my hand whenever I came near. I hoped.
The following night, we discovered the mother hadn’t abandoned the rest of the litter. Encouraged, we hoped she might take the little guy back and nurse him to health. The kitten passed away in my office before we could reunite them.
As ever a man could be, the love of my life was sensitive and understanding, knowing I was on the verge of tears. As he helped me home, I couldn’t break. Eventually I went to my room, cried and prayed by myself while he sat listening in the other room.
When I returned to him he held me, soothing.
Over the coming mornings God revealed the meaning in that loss.
What a blessing it is to be filled with joy, to be generous, to have a heart so full of love it bubbles over seamlessly into care and compassion for others. Knowing and trusting faithfully in the never-ending, wonderful abundance of life, the beauty and joy of giving is endless and boundless.
Oh, the joy of a giver. Of a tender heart.
A giver of love, smiles, hugs, help, advice, support, strength, caring, nourishment, prayer:
With a tender heart, we spend, spend, spend our love. With an equally tender heart, we feel deep pain when our love doesn’t seem to be enough. We feel pain when we lovingly, painstakingly, prayerfully nurture something and find ourselves shocked by the outcome: Lack of appreciation, acknowledgment, failure, loss, abuse, and even death.
The reality is our love is never enough: His is. When we allow our lives to be about God, empty ourselves to be used as vessels, we always bring life: Even in what seems to be the opposite.
But never forget whose vessel you are, and how to properly care for that vessel. You weren’t put here to be used up and discarded, to let the pain and disappointment felt become the pages of your self-created instruction manual of life.
Those are not the lessons we’re meant to learn and keep.
The pain we feel when our love doesn’t seem to be enough is the pain of our heart expanding.
Just like any muscle, when it is strengthened the ache of effort is painful. And when our heart stretches out, pulled by love, we have to recognize the critical need to fill that new space properly.
Otherwise the space meant to expand our ability as givers, lovers is left empty and slack: Dead useless weight. Eventually we will try to fill it with something else, not realizing we’ve rejected a chance to grow our giving, loving spirit.
When we feel the pain of our heart stretching, God has to fill it up with more love. We can’t simply exercise, talk, journal, feng-shui, sex, cry, vacation, work, vent, group-therapy, bubble-bath, eat, dance, sing, silently pray or drink it away.
We have to actively tap into God to fill up the space and find our true refreshment. The longer we delay that process, the more room we leave for the saggy heart space to fill with useless stuffing that taints our goodness.
As much as we allow ourselves to be used to give life, we need the same life-giving to thrive and grow. Every giver needs replenishment, refreshment, renewal. And it has to come from that same boundless, abundant source we tap into when giving to others.
Otherwise the giving begins to come from us: Good intentions and all, we are a shabby resource compared to God’s storehouse.
We wouldn’t tap an empty bank account to refill itself, so why do we think we can do the same with ourselves? And God is ready, aching to fill us up. Because that love source is boundless, and we are the way it spreads to others.
It pulls on the heart strings to watch someone you love dearly suffer in pain, frustrated and trying to fix their own problem when you have the perfect solution in front of their nose… But because you know forcing it on them won’t work, you have to wait for them to ask. This is God’s posture toward us in times of pain.
Thank goodness for patience. And creativity.
Ever notice how certain people seem heaven-sent? Like angels who come in right on time?
Our lives are too important for God to sit around waiting for us to figure it out. Because we don’t live only for ourselves. When we get lost in pain from feeling too much, caring too much, giving too much, others suffer in ways we’ll never know. Our lives and our time are critically important.
So yes, every resource available will be deployed to point us toward receiving what we need from the right source. They’re useless if we refuse to receive. All the help in the world is lost if the key to unleashing it is asking, and we just won’t.
Be tender with yourself.
Receive. Receive. Receive. Receive.
Recognize pain as heart-stretching.
Embrace it and run to God as fast as you can to fill the space it creates in your expansion with the right stuff.
Miraculously, the idea of letting something go will seem exciting and liberating. Memories and thoughts of it will be of joyous, positive reflection.
When forgiveness feels like another insurmountable, thankless task to approach without a helping hand in sight, it’s a lie.
When forgetfulness feels like a naive surrender to abuse, it’s a lie.
The truth is, when you are full to the gills, forgiveness is an easy, gratifying gift presented in glorious wrapping by God. You can’t wait to share it.
When you are full, forgetting is a mature, knowing and determined step toward purity and wholeness brought by true faith in God’s goodness and authority.
With slackness in our hearts we make ourselves susceptible to things we were never meant to bear, and aren’t made to handle.
Be aware of your own resistance to filling up the slack and get out of your own way. Especially during this holiday season that begs givers to outdo themselves.
Your life and other’s depends on it.