Do you know what it’s like when someone steals a piece of your heart? Many people are familiar with this notion, but I am unsure of how many people have truly experienced this phenomenon. It brings you to this place where you are not just concerned for yourself, in fact self is the last thing that consumes you as you throw yourself fully into the other. For me, I haven’t had those feelings with any one person, but I feel this way toward a place and toward a people that aren’t the place and people I was born to.
If you don’t know me and you are just stumbling upon this, then you might not know that over the course of 5 years, I lived in Cambodia for two and a half years working with a group called The Hard Places Community. I helped to start a tour company that now helps to provide alternative employment for men coming out of the sex trade. But for those years I did much more than live and work, I also loved. Cambodia is a home to me, which may sound odd to some, but for me it feels so natural. When God created me, He gave me a HUGE heart, one that would mirror the way He felt about the whole world! It was His heart that called me to Cambodia, and it was His heart that sustained me through the times of living there. The Father and I had some wild adventures putting His heart on display and those are moments that I cherish because it was then that I learned what love looked like. It is important to me, however, that you know the full story.
I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, love isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, love is hard and it hurts much more than Hollywood would have you believe. Life in Cambodia wounded me greatly. In my time of living there, I was more challenged than I had ever been, I was more exhausted than I knew possible. I gave myself freely to people just to have them turn their backs and walk away. There were many painful experiences that I have had to allow the Lord to heal. This truth doesn’t detract from the love I felt, if anything, it makes it more powerful. When coal is put under intense pressure there is a shift and diamonds begin to be formed. In the fire and pain the dross can be removed and the gold is purified. In the same way that it wasn’t all good, my experience wasn’t all bad either.
This isn’t just true of love, I think this is how all of life is. You begin to think that everything will always be perfect, and then tragedy happens and it leaves you reeling, wondering how this could happen to you. If you are consumed by the thought that all of life is meant to be easy, these moments will shatter the things you say you believe in. In Buddhism this is why they teach the practice of detachment, because even the beautiful things cause you pain. Why love if it will only hurt me? To me this is one of the main reasons that the gospel of Jesus is truly good news. It was in a dark moment when Jesus, the Son of God, laid down everything that we would know that love hurts, but it is worth the risk.
When I look back at Cambodia, this is how I see it. It was worth the risk! I know how hard and painful it was, I know how I wish it had been this pain free experience. I also know how blessed I was to meet all of the people that I have met and I know that I am a different person than I ever could have forced myself to be because I allowed myself to be given. I have friends from the church that I am working at who are there right now and I am so jealous that they get to see my family across the sea, but I know that in the right timing I will be able to go back and see my family there. You see, it would be easier for me to just shut out that chapter, to live as if Cambodia were Narnia and think of it only as some fictional reality and I think this is what love can seem like, but I don’t want to forget it! I want to remember it for the whole experience that it was and let the love I feel in my heart change the way I live my life. I urge you to think of the people and places you have loved and don’t allow them to be lost in romanticism or demonization as we often tend to compartmentalize. Allow yourself to feel the full breadth of emotion and be changed by the experiences you have had, they are what made you who you are.