Somehow I know that Sabo’s heart beats tenuously beneath a rent-open chest too. That no matter what corner he stands on, no matter how often he runs away from home, straight into the arms of a life rife with danger and drugs and money and meaningless sex and friends shot in the back of the head. No matter how many dark alleys he finds himself in, how many layers of plastic and brick he erects to keep us out and protect his heart. No matter what, God continues to graciously allow me to glimpse the truth that his heart still beats. That his chest might be open, and major surgery might be required . . . but he is still alive, and the Savior never gives up on Saviour. And so neither will we.
The ironic thing about this whole never giving up thing is that we aren’t very good at it. Both Adam and I, we are notorious giver-uppers. On workout plans and diets and cutting-out-sugar and paleo and keeping our car clean and sticking to a budget. I succumb easily to obstacles and temptation alike, perhaps precisely why I see myself as if in a mirror when I stare into Sabo’s eyes. Why I recognize my own prodigal, my own torn open heart, my own poverty, my inability to control and protect myself from the world that hurts. Take Lent: this year, I didn’t give anything up because I have failed a million times to follow through with Lent in the past, so I figure it is safer not to even try.
But isn’t Lent really about following Jesus to the cross? The thought bounces through my mind as I pluck a noodle from the boiling water and blow on it briefly before popping it in my mouth to see if it’s done. My mouth scalds, and the noodle’s still too gritty.
I think of the cross and the life that brought Jesus to hang there. Of how He went intentionally to the very places everyone else avoided. To a well in Samaria, a place people normally took the long way around, to meet a woman. And I think of the places we go the long way around to avoid. The corners where I always get yelled at, the streets I know will be crowded with tables and games of cards and dice, the gas stations where I inevitably get asked for money,
broken cisterns of fear and anxiety and insecurity and I think how glad I am that I don’t have to carry his jugs of anger and drugs and who-knows-what-else. But we both still drag our water jugs, filling and refilling and drinking lies of the perfect-mother-I-will-never-be and the powerful-rich-drug-dealer-who-needs-no-one-ever.
And Jesus beckons us both alike to shatter our jugs, to lie still and drink deep of living water. To allow our hearts to be torn open so He can give us a new one.
I layer just-al-dente noodles with cheese, and ladle sauce on top, sprinkling on more mozzarella for good measure. And I surrender not one but two boys, and their heart conditions, to a Father who loves far more deeply and fully than I can even imagine. I trust that He is doing His delicate and careful work on their hearts, and on mine. Healing and re-wiring, strengthening and widening, and softening that which was once hard. And sometimes it means leaving them in the boiling water just a little bit longer.
But I remind myself as I drive up to the apartment, disposable tin-foil casserole dish in hand, that sometimes letting go looks differently than I think it should. That even as I sat helpless and surrendered by Caden’s bedside in the CICU, I never stopped praying over him or whispering truth into his little ears about how loved he was, how glad we were to have him. And so I do the same for this one: I hug him tight and whisper how much I love him in his ear, while a cigarette perches behind the other one. He mumbles names I cant decipher for his friends, and I tell them how glad I am to meet them. One rolls back over, burrowing under a faded camouflage blanket, and the other one winks at me from beneath an unruly bleached-blonde fro.
I will somehow both surrender my boys to Jesus, while continuing to pursue them into the hardest places I can imagine. To cardiologist appointments and apartment complexes that make my heart-beat quicken. Because I am desperate for them, and for me, to encounter the Christ who heals hearts. The One who offers living water that quenches our insatiable thirst, and will not leave us parched for dope or for money or for acceptance or anything other thing. Because that’s the kind of encounter that will leave Sabo and I standing hand-in-hand, the shards of our broken cisterns around our feet.