Today is the day for red and pink and white hearts showered everywhere we look. Today is the day for red roses and confessions of true love. Today is the day of Cupid.
But how many of us remember that Cupid carried two kinds of arrows? The one we see in today’s images is golden-tipped, infusing with desire the one it strikes; the other is lead-tipped, filling the one it pierces with aversion. Truth is, we humans have been shot through with both. And we can feel both desire and aversion toward the same person . . .
Just recently, he stood right in front of me, eyes staring straight into mine, glazed over—looking at me but not seeing me—and he lied in response to my direct question. His cheeks didn’t flush. His face didn’t flinch. He stood there squarely—cold eyes staring—and lied—right to my face.
I had the evidence. He knew I had the evidence. And even when confronted with the facts, he held to his lie and began spinning new lies to cover the first. I kept going, undeterred, though anger welled up within me. I would get him to admit, to confess. I would make him say the truth. Finally, he chose truth over consequence.
He confesses his love for me with words and shows his love for me by helping with tasks around the farm. But he lies. And his lies are not just about avoiding negative consequences. He just lies. Over and over and over. For years and years. Why? My husband and I haven’t figured him out. The psychiatrist, and a handful of psychologists over the years haven’t figured him out. “He’s an enigma,” we have heard too many times to count. But here’s what we do know . . .
His Russian birth mother was 19 when she conceived him. Two months short of her delivery date, she decided she was done and harmed herself intentionally, trying to shed her womb of his life. He was born not breathing, miraculously revived, and whisked off to a neonatal intensive care unit in some St. Petersburg hospital. Once stabilized, he was transferred to the orphanage in Lomonosov where he spent the first few years of his life not belonging to anyone. Along with 60 other children, he was given minimal care—food, clothes, not much touch.
And then Todd and I flew to his country and made him our own. We celebrated his fourth birthday at a table in our St. Petersburg apartment. His first birthday cake had toy airplanes on top of the chocolate frosting which he smeared delightedly all over his mouth. We all wore pointy birthday hats and blew paper horns and laughed full joy.
My heart was shot straight through 16 years ago with golden-tipped love, smitten. Our Sergei was given a new name, Zachary, which means “The Lord remembers.” Surely, our God remembered Zachary—the one he knit together in his mother’s womb—the one who came too close to death before his first breath. And our God still remembers Zachary today—the one whose brain was damaged permanently by alcohol and birth trauma.
And he lies.
My mother heart, shot through with gold back then became shot through with lead—over and over through the years—with each lie—and with so many more painful piercings that cannot be shared—ever—except with a few close friends and our God. We have spent countless hours and dollars seeking help over the years, just to hear, “He has frontal lobe damage. There’s nothing that will fix this. You can only compensate.”
But he is our son. And he will ALWAYS be our son.
He may never be able to reciprocate love the way I had hoped. He may always lie. He may do to others what he has done to us, with greater consequences than what we have given. And I’m tempted to fear. But I will not allow fear to strangle me or my son. We will walk by faith in a God who is greater and stronger than damaged brains and hurt hearts. I will move into God’s heart, closer and closer, until His heart changes mine fully. Because a heart pierced with gold and lead needs a transplant that only a perfectly golden heart can perform.
I laid myself down on the altar. I laid myself down, right beside my son—my heart too full of lead. And trusted my God to cut gently and extract fully, replacing lead parts with gold. And what happened?
God opened me up and showed me my insides. He showed me my lies. I lie to Him—over and over—every time I profess my love for Him but don’t love like He loves. I lie. I shoot His heart. I do things to help Him, I think, but really—they help me more. My acts of love toward others are too often motivated with what I’m going to get back—some good feeling—some good image—some love returned. Is that how God loves?
He sent His son—His one and only son—while I lied and shot lead-tipped arrows. Surely He would find my aversive.
But Jesus’ heart broke, for me. And He bled out, for me. And His human heart stopped beating, for me. For three days He laid cold—dead—going to Hell and back, for me—the one who lies.
And regardless of how imperfectly I love, He loves me purely. He has my highest good in mind at all times—not His own feelings.
I am healed as I am humbled. And there is more to come. For who knows the depths of the human heart like our perfect God? Who knows what lead lies hidden, in need of extraction, but our perfect Physician?
Does this mean I’ll not be angry at the next lie—at the next love betrayal? No. Righteous anger is righteous. God gets angry. But for a human to act golden when lead penetrates a heart, that takes a divine intervention. Golden love—the kind we can’t manufacture on our own—is true love.
And I intend to love my son, truly. I’m going for gold. I’m standing with my God, asking him to load my quiver with golden-tipped arrows aimed at others because I have been smitten—by Him.
Happy Valentine’s Day, sons and daughters everywhere!