And a sword will pierce your own soul, too…
These words—both prophecy and inescapable truth—popped into my head this morning as I reflected on the nature of sorrow. Spoken to Mary as she presented her infant son Jesus at the temple, they pointed to the heavy price she’d pay for having the honor and responsibility of raising the Son of God. Imagine birthing and raising a perfect child! Apart from the distress he’d inadvertently cause by staying behind at the temple, age 12, he must have been a constant joy to parent. What love he must have ushered into their household! But the cost of this unimaginable love would be the equally searing pain of watching him be crucified, his earthly life ended at the age of 33. And even the joy of seeing him come into his glory would be tempered by the pain of losing her dearest, fiercest human relationship.
None of us will come close to experiencing what Mary went through, the highs or lows. But there’s a universal truth behind these words: The more we love, the greater our pain when we lose the object of our love. For some people, that awareness is enough to temper how freely and deeply they love. It seems wiser to hold back than to risk pain that is the inverse of joy. For others, we take that risk and pray that death (or unfaithfulness) will keep a wide berth till we’re ancient enough to let go without breaking.
If you’ve lived more than a few decades, I’ll wager you’ve been deeply pierced at least once. If the object of your great love hasn’t died, perhaps they’ve abandoned you in other ways. And your ‘great love’ needn’t be a person. Maybe it’s a dream, a lifetime project, or a central purpose that’s been swept away by forces beyond your control. The same premise holds true: if you’ve loved greatly, given greatly, invested greatly, your heart’s going to break when he, she, they, or it is taken away.
One of my great losses is marking its 43rd anniversary tomorrow. That day—May 22nd, 1978—is written on my heart in indelible ink. The sword that accompanied the death of my fiancé pierced long and deep, lasting far longer than my 22-year-old heart could have imagined back then. I learned too late that giving my whole heart meant my heart would be forever changed. It took a ridiculous amount of time to reckon with the damage. Because I’d held nothing back. Whether that was wise or foolish is still up for debate.
Going forward, I tried to protect my heart, but my heart loved anyway. Other swords I never imagined have pierced my soul more times than I care to recount. Sometimes my soul has felt flattened with grief. Sometimes I just feel numb. But the essence of heart protection—holding back—is a skill I’m not sure I want to perfect.
Would Mary have refused the gift of God had she known the cost? It’s interesting that the price tag wasn’t mentioned by the angel Gabriel when he brought news of her impending pregnancy. It’s only after the child’s birth, as she holds her greatest treasure in her arms, that Simeon’s words convey the full picture. The greatest love will bring the greatest sorrow. There’d be no turning back.
Mary might have hesitated, but not for long. God knew what she could bear, and how He’d help her bear it. Can we take heart from her experience? Can we also trust that the joy of loving will ultimately triumph over the pain of losing?
What about you? Do you ever talk about the swords that pierce your heart? If you could rewind the past, would you choose to give your heart differently?
(By the way, you can read all about my love-and-loss story in my recently published debut memoir, Paradise Road, available through Amazon or my website, http://www.MarilynKriete.com)
Categories: Birthing a Book