Avoiding Calloused Hearts

Avoiding Calloused Hearts

Years ago I started a bereavement support group for people who had lost family members and friends. Our church had an unusually high number of people grieving the loss of a loved one, so I recruited a wonderful Christian counselor to come and lead an eight-week session. One week after the group was announced, we completely filled up the number of available slots on the sign-up sheet. I was thrilled by the response but also somewhat disappointed, because there was one elderly lady’s name not on the list. She and I had become friends, and I knew she was still struggling to let her husband go, even though he had passed away fifteen years earlier.

I called her on the phone and said, “Mary, did you hear that the church is offering a support group for people who have lost loved ones?”

“Yes,” she said. “I did.”

“Well, would you like to go? The group is full, but I think I can still get you in if you’d like to attend.”

“Absolutely not,” she said. “I’m not going to go into a room full of strangers and talk about my man,” and she hung up the phone. I assumed we had been disconnected, so I called her right back and said, “Mary, this is Brian again, I was wondering if—” Click. She had hung up again.

I shouted into the phone, “Crazy old woman!” and dialed her number again. “Mary, this is—” Click.

I couldn’t believe it. I dialed her again. “Mar—” Click.

I tried once more. She didn’t even bother talking this time; she just picked up the phone as soon as it rang and hung it up again.

That Sunday Mary smiled at me and said, “I’m sorry, Brian. I just can’t. I can’t bring myself to do it. I hope you understand.”

Two weeks later the group started with a room full of hurting people. Women who were grieving miscarriages joined the group. One woman had lost her sister in an airplane crash. My friend Philip from chapter three was there; Claire had gone home to be with Jesus. The group grew so close that they didn’t want to disband after eight weeks. They kept going. Two people who met in the group actually ended up getting married. It was an amazing experience. Yet I always felt a twinge of sadness whenever I thought about that group because my friend Mary missed out. The group could have changed her life if she had just given it a chance.

Don’t make the same mistake my friend Mary made—make a decision to take a risk. C. S. Lewis once said in his masterful book The Four Loves:

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Don’t let this happen to you. Make the decision right now that you’re going to step out and risk living in Christian community.


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