I remember my first death very well — it was my fifteen-year-old dog, Stretch. While some may mock such a loss, “Stretchie,” was my running partner, confidant, and very best friend (or one of them). To my twelve-year-old mind, her death was very significant and difficult. I cried a lot and thought of her often and of how much I missed her. It was in this time that I first realized the extreme risk of love. Would it have been easier if I never loved at all?
Of course, common sense and wisdom soon prevailed over this depressing thought. Looking at my wonderful life thus far with Stretchie was very much worth it to me, even though I would have to face the rest of it without her. Because I had the memories of her licking my face, of plucking her fur (yes, plucking…well, that’s what I called it when I pulled her fur that was shedding), and running with her in the backyard. And really, I wouldn’t trade those memories to have had her forever but to never have loved her or to have never had her at all. The risk was worth it.
Now, almost five years later, I’ve gone through far greater risks and experienced many other grievances. Friends have betrayed me. I left my heart behind in another country. A person that I expressed my feelings to disappointed me. Someone very dear to my heart went to heaven. I’ve sometimes wondered if my old idea was right. Was the risk worth it?
And then, I went to acting school. For my own sake, I went with the mindset that I wouldn’t delve too deeply into relationships with others. I would make friends but not too closely, since I was only there for three weeks and a great distance of land would surely prevent us from visiting often. I’d been hurt by the risk of love too many times and would be again, so I would avoid it here.
But that was before I realized that the minute I stepped into the room full of other students who loved to act, I was taking a risk. It was before I knew that these three weeks would be a time of growing through friendship. I didn’t understand that life and love are about taking risks. I had forgotten the greatest loving risk of all that paid the price for my sins. I couldn’t see the great beauty of the risk.
Thankfully, in those three weeks I saw all of these things and came out with a new love for the risk called love. I saw my heart change and grow and my longings fulfilled. I had conversations that I’d always wanted to have. I learned how to be a good friend and the beauty of a true friend. My needs were met and my insecurities broken at last. And yes, there was disappointment — my three weeks weren’t perfect by any means. It is true that I had to leave these friends and I probably won’t see many of them again. But there are certain rewards of taking the risk to love which made it all worth it.
My heart may be tender but I don’t care if it is stepped on anymore. I know what love tastes like now and it is well worth the risk. Protecting yourself against friendship and love only wounds the heart that God created. As friends, we may pass each other by, we may be hurt and disappointed, and the pain might be great but the love that we share makes these risks pale in comparison.