Able to Love, Willing to Grieve, Part Two
Last week, Cathy Loerzel, Executive Director of The Allender Center, wrote about the before and after of childbirth, reflecting on the emotional impact her newborn son has had on her heart. Here, Cathy shares about the nature of that impact—one that has made her more tender to both the pain of abuse and the beauty of goodness.
When my son was born, it is as if the veil between this world and the dream of Eden became a very thin line. I could barely handle violence on TV, reading about abuse in the news, or seeing the ravages of war ripping our world apart. I had to do significant research before watching a movie to make sure it was something I could handle, because I was vulnerable to every story I encountered. In truth, I was heartbroken by the wounded world my beautiful baby boy would encounter, and the reality of what he will suffer took my breath away.
I was completely undone when I looked at my sweet, trusting, curious child, knowing in my bones he was meant to experience uninterrupted beauty, goodness, and care. Now, looking back, I am in awe of my new-found empathy and quickness to tears and am rattled by how vulnerable I feel. I believe this thinly laced veil allows me to understand the love my son deserves, and it gives me a glimpse into what my heart was designed for as well. This may sound a little dramatic, but I wonder if this is not the way it is supposed to be? Why aren’t we on our knees wailing for the brokenness of our world? Why don’t we get choked up when we catch a glimpse of the harm we have endured? Why aren’t we praying and begging God to help us bring healing and protection and restoration to our world?
My sweet, beautiful, and wondrous boy has absolutely broken me. As I have encountered his sweet heart, I have been taken by beauty and love in a way that has opened my heart and ruined me for this harsh world. I believe fully that we can only love to the degree we are willing to grieve, and in opening myself to love, I am now more susceptible to grief in a way that is both beautiful and terrifying.
Before he was born, I remember talking to a dear friend and admitting that I was afraid I might not love my son. After he was born my friend came over and asked me how I felt about that fear now. I looked at her through thick tears and said that I’m not afraid of not loving him, I’m afraid I will never be able to love anything else, other than him, ever again. But it turns out, it is quite the opposite. As my heart grows in its capacity, my ability to love and to feel is magnified.
My heart is now sensitive and ready to weep, and while this is admittedly inconvenient at times, I am so so grateful that when I sit with another story, when I consider my own harm, when I am faced with how I have harmed others, all I need to do is picture my sweet boy and I am immediately in touch with what Eden promised and the intention of God. This realization softens my heart, opens my hands, and casts my vision to the little boy or girl in all of us that needs and, quite frankly, deserves care. So I am pummeled, I am changed, and as is true for all deep change, it came from the complete undoing of a dramatic “before and after.”
Now as the months roll by, the veil is a little thicker, but I continue to make space for this new “after” and the gift of a pummelled heart. I get to be tender in a harsh and beautiful world where I will raise my son and sit with him as he encounters the wonder of the earth, the love of friends, and the violence of abuse. My only hope is that I will protect my new heart and not ask it to be hardened once more. I hope to be a tender and fierce presence that is quick to weep, slow to judge, and eager to love. I pray I am always sensitive to the realities of brokenness and that this sensitivity would keep my heart open and curious just like my sweet, wondrous boy.
I hope to be a tender and fierce presence that is quick to weep, slow to judge, and eager to love.”
Cathy Loerzel is the VP of Advancement of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and the Executive Director of The Allender Center. Cathy received her MA in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School in 2007 and has been working with the school since graduation. She created The Allender Center along side of Dr. Allender and continues to invest as a teacher, group facilitator, and curriculum designer at the center. She also helped build The Seattle School Forum and The Leadership in the New Parish Certificate. Cathy is married to a local therapist, has a beautiful one-year-old son, and sweet old dog named Gizmo.