Love Is Calloused, Holding My Hand


The pastor is praying and the woman in the pew in front of me has an oxygen tank. She’s breathing in and out and it’s soothing, but also jarring, because you don’t realize how much you need oxygen until you stop being able to breathe.

And I reckon the same can be said about love.

Love is holding my hands, all calloused with a wedding ring on its right finger, and a scar where he cut himself with a Cutco knife years ago doing a knife presentation for Cutco.

We’re taking communion together, and there are kids up in the balcony and we’re surrounded by gray hair and the sound of the oxygen tank, in and out, and I start to cry.

For all of the broken hearted; for those for whom love is not just a man away.

I think of Friday night, of the young couple who came to our house, and we’ve known him for a decade now—my husband mentored him in high school—and she’s pregnant for the second time in four months and they’d just broken up. And the young man tells us, after a game of Settlers and a beer, after our kids have been bathed and put to bed and the house is quiet enough to hear the woman’s heart bleeding.

He tells us that he doesn’t think he’s ever loved her.

A single tear falls down her cheek, like all of those films, only this is flesh and blood sitting right beside me, with long thin arms and black hair and they’ve been living together for a year and a half. He met her after taking a course on how to pick up women. He used all of the lines on her, the lines he learned in the course, and later he’d use them on other women too, while still with her.

And it didn’t hit him until we were sitting there that night, that maybe he’d hurt her. That maybe all of those texts in which he’d said he loved her, while partying with other girls, weren’t enough for her. That maybe living together wasn’t enough for her. That maybe she’d had enough of falling in love, and all she wanted was to walk in it–to hold its hand, without the crash of the fall, without the break of the fall, without the lies of the Fall.

Their whole relationship had been a lie.

And the truth about love is this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.” — 1 Corinthians 13:5-8

Love does nothing for itself, and everything for the other.

So now I’m curled over my knees, sobbing in the pew, for this girl who’s carrying a baby born out of deception. I’m sobbing for all of the children born to single parents who believed they were loved, but love is more than a partner, love is more than a queen sized bed, love is more than a parked car or a dinner and movie, love is more.

And yes, there are days—maybe even months—where I don’t feel it, and so I can relate, but I’m learning to live it, with every breath, because love is an oxygen tank, is the hand that will hold you when you’re arthritic, is the hug that will sustain you when you lose your job, is the eyes that will look into yours and say I Am Here For You—because everyone needs someone who knows their middle name, their favorite color, whether or not they cry at sad movies and how they like their steak.

We’re eating the cubes of brown bread now —

drinking the communion wine and the sound of glasses clinking in the cup holders. The woman’s still breathing, the pastor’s still praying, and all around me are hearts that have been broken, including mine I suppose.

And after church I pick up my son and I hug him, because the only way to fix the world is to fix myself, to start at home, with the ones in my care. All I can do is choose to be love incarnate for them, and hope there will be a ripple effect.

That our sons and daughters would not just fall in love but remain in love, forever and ever, through sickness and health, until death do us part. Amen.

Photo Credit: Amanpreet Kaur, Creative Commons

  • Amy Hunt

    And when we find we’ve been failed and that perfect love only comes from One, might we embrace Him, accept each other’s humanness, give thanks for each as a gift, and trust Him for us all . . . imperfect and all, yet purposed to the full. Amen.

    • Emily Wierenga

      “imperfect and yet purposed to the full.” LOVE this dear Amy.

  • Nancy Franson

    I have been living this passage from Corinthians this past year and struck by the truth that patience comes first in the list. Love waits for love to do its healing work, and it isn’t always pretty and it often takes so much longer than we think it should. And love never fails. Ever.

    You love so well, em. I know your love is transforming lives.

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh Nancy, I hadn’t realized this before, that patience comes FIRST, and YES, it is the hardest of virtues… this makes so much sense. thank you friend. you love so very, very well, too. XO

  • Michelle DeRusha

    Heartbrokenness and hope all wrapped up in one (One) in this post, Emily. Beautifully done.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you dear Michelle. I miss you girl. XO

  • Laura

    Such powerful thoughts. Since my first love told me that he didn’t love me anymore, it is hard for me to believe that love really exists anymore. So often it’s just a feeling, rather than a choice. And feelings come and go. Thank you for writing this and for acknowledging my pain through your sorrow for “those for whom love is not just a man away.”

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh friend, i’m so sorry for your pain. i’m praying for you… that you’ll feel God’s loving arms and that he’ll send his angels to minister to your broken heart. Love to you. e.

  • cindyfinley

    Emily, I love your thought — “Learning to live it.” So true. There is so much beauty in learning to stay, to push through, the go for something so much richer, truer, deeper, than flight feelings.

  • Susan Contakes

    Dear Emily,
    Thank you for this post. How God is the healer of the broken-hearted as you describe so beautifully and how we all need Him so much. How beautiful He is to be able to heal such deep woundings and shattered lives. There is no love like his love!
    I have been thinking about Leah in Genesis and so many who are in such difficult situations but how He wants to show Himself to us right in the midst. Thank you for sharing and I will pray for this young couple and child.
    bless you,

    • Emily Wierenga

      YES Susan, I love the story of Leah and how God meets her there in the desert, and is so tender with her. Thank you for praying. That means so much.

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    Loving not just in word but in deed, it all comes down to that doesn’t it? I’m so selfish, self focused, self absorbed in my fleshly nature. I’ve found that the kind of love that lives for the other is impossible without the supernatural love of God flowing to me and through me.
    Beautifully written, Em.

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh friend, I’m so selfish too. but I think that’s why God delights in using us–because then, it’s ALL him :) He gets all the glory. love you dear elizabeth. XO

  • Jessica

    This is beautiful, and I think the ripple effect is the way forward. Love, love and love some more. We never run out, because God keeps filling us up and giving us more.

    • Emily Wierenga

      yes Jess! The ripple effect… or the Spirit Effect :) it’s all him. bless you!

  • pastordt

    Amen to every single beautiful word of this. A favorite from you for me, em. Thank you.

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh Diana, that means a lot to me! thank you, faithful one. XO

  • Carol Vinson

    Oh how I needed these words tonight. Yes, ‘learning to live it, with every breath’ because sometimes you just don’t feel it. Thank you.

    • Emily Wierenga

      may our Abba meet you and hold you, dear Carol, and comfort you with his love. XO

  • Danelle

    “She’d had enough of falling in love and now just wanted to walk in it.”
    Oh my goodness Emily. Your writing gives me chills, makes my heart ache. Love you Emily. This was a powerful piece of writing.

    • Emily Wierenga

      thank you so much dear Danelle. that means a lot coming from a beautiful writer like yourself! love you too, friend. XO

  • Cecilia

    Beautiful words… Definitely a favorite. Thank you Emily!

  • Neilanderson

    This is one of the pillars for a strong relationship. Without being trustworthy to one another, the relationship is bound to end miserably. Avoid doubting and suspecting your partner on petty issues. Always ensure that your partner feels secure about your relationship. This can involve telling your friends about him/her in his/her presence. This will make them build trust in you too.

    Free Breakup Advice

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