When You Realize Loving People Hurts


You're going to have to realize that loving people hurts.

It was in January that he said those words to me from his blue chair across the room to the left corner of the couch where I sat week after week. I knew he was right, but I didn't like it.

I never thought about love that way. I didn't picture it like a fight. I didn't anticipate the aching, the battling, the wrestling. I didn't imagine it would feel like getting wrung out, used up, depleted and exhausted. I didn't think it would hurt quite like it did. I didn't think it would be so hard.

I knew I had been hurt before. I had done that version of love, but I always thought it wasn't real because it was hard and painful and messy. I always assumed when it was real love, it wouldn't be like that. It wouldn't make my heart pound in my chest. It wouldn't feel at all like fear. It wouldn't keep me up at night, tossing and turning. It wouldn't make me feel so exposed, so seen, so naked, so at the mercy of another. It wouldn't leave me with a list of questions and doubts a mile long. It wouldn't cause me pain, wouldn't cause me grief, wouldn't cause me hurt. It would be easy, effortless, light and lovely, fun and free and simple. That would be love. Not the hard, not the hurt. 

But I had to realize that loving people hurts.

It hurts when you stay, when you wake up day after day and decide all over again to keep saying yes, to keep choosing him or her or them, to stay tethered to another person despite the churning waves of questions and emotions and all that life is.

It hurts when you leave, when you know the chapter must end and the page must turn to something new, but you choke back tears at the sight of his head in his hands as you say goodbye, and you miss her even years after that last fight, and you still remember their laughter filling the room that now stays silent.

It hurts in the in between, when you're stepping into the arena again and again because you want to keep trying, despite knowing you'll get pummeled, knowing you'll stumble, knowing you won't make it out without a few more bruises and scrapes, knowing you'll look different when you leave, no matter how it all turns out.

And It hurts when it's good, too, you know.

It hurts when it's holy and I'm in awe of God's glory in the middle of the mess.

It hurts when a diagnosis comes and a loved one takes a final breath and a relationship ends and a zip code changes and a text goes unanswered.

It hurts when you love more deeply than you knew you could.

It hurts when you share the secret you've kept burning inside your bones, and it hurts when you step out of the chains into freedom for the first time. It hurts when you leave the dark to step into the light, and it's so bright it blinds you.

It hurts when it's unbalanced and uneven, when one loves more than another, when sharp words are exchanged, when expectations aren't met, when the grief is too deep, when the distance between two stances seems too far.

Loving people hurts.

To love my brother hurts. To love my roommate hurts. To love the man camped on the corner with the raggedy cardboard sign hurts. To love my coworker hurts. To love the little humans I spend a few hours with on a Friday night hurts. To love the refugee hurts. To love the president hurts. To love my pastor, and the woman across the aisle, and the man passing me the offering bucket hurts. To love the white man with a gun hurts, and to love the teenagers being buried in the dirt far too young hurts. To love those on the left hurts, to love those on the right hurts, to love those who came illegally hurts, to love those who are seeking asylum hurts. To love the jerk cutting me off in traffic hurts, to love the man with 23 items in the 10-or-less aisle hurts. To love the rude cashier hurts, to love the black sheep relative hurts, to love the person who broke your loved one's heart hurts.

Loving people, however it looks, hurts.

It costs us something each and every time we open our hearts to another.

We give of our time, we share our souls, we give our attention, we pour out our energy, we spill our secrets, we take risks, we take leaps of faith, we hope, we put stock in something, we believe again, we open up. And no matter what happens, we don't stay the same. We change and we are changed. We love and we are loved. We hurt and we are hurt.

It can almost make it feel not worth it. Knowing there will be risks and falls and scars and hurt... why try? Why let love in at all? Surely it would be safer, easier, better to keep it out, right?

Yet I remember again-- it is not safe, but it is good.

Because Jesus, love itself in the body of God-made-man, came to love us. Love got real when Christ came near. Love unending, love surprising, love sacrificing, love redeeming, love healing, love connecting, love restoring, love saving, love creating, love unifying.

But love is not painless.

Jesus knew this.

He came to be love, to show love, to teach love... and we killed him for it. We didn't understand love like that.

Loving people is not painless. Loving people is not perfect.

Loving people takes risk. It takes vulnerability and a whole lot of courage. It takes sacrifice like Jesus showed us on the cross. 

Loving people takes forgiveness and letting people off the hooks we would rather hang them on, even though it would be so much easier to leave them there.

Loving people takes confessing and apologizing and trying again.

Loving people takes our guard down. It shatters our defenses and exposes us to all kinds of new things-- beautiful and painful and holy and hard and hopeful all the same.

Loving people reminds us we are broken, they are broken, but we are not too far gone. It helps us put the pieces back together, like kintsugi, with gold in all the cracks and a new creation standing whole after all.

Loving people hurts like hell.

But loving people heals like heaven.

You have to realize loving people hurts.

I'm realizing it too, more and more.

And always, always, it is worth it.