Costly Song


 “Love hurts when it changes us.”

― Toba Beta ―

This is Part Five of my Practical Love Series! If you missed the other posts, be sure to go back and check them out! You can find the most recent post From the Roots of Grace here.

I can tell you what Love feels like, what it sometimes does, but writing to you about Love is like trying to capture the sun in a bottle or fit the ocean in a teacup.

I do know something about Love–it is a song, a costly song.

A rock band once wrote a song about their view of love:

“Love hurts, love scars, love wounds
And mars, any heart
Not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts……ooh, ooh love hurts
I’m young, I know, but even so
I know a thing or two
And I learned from you
I really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a flame
It burns you when it’s hot
Love hurts……ooh, ooh love hurts”

These writers came to a conclusion: that Love is a lie. But as much as Love has the power to hurt, its song is much more complex. Love is not a lie–because God cannot lie. In my life, I look around–and I hear it, hear the Love rising. It is more true than they knew.

Mr. Rick goes to  my church. He spent last year watching his father die. Convenience, beloved friends, freedom–this man gave all of these up to care for his father through the last days of his cancer. One Sunday, Mr. Rick described to the congregation the terrible thing it is to watch someone you love waste away. His father was a burly man, one of those people who never get sick. Until the years wore thin and his body began to break. Mr. Rick told us of his shock to see that even his father was vulnerable to the death of this sin-cursed place. By traveling with his father to the end, Mr. Rick learned about death. But I learned a different lesson: I learned about the love a son had for his father. Mr. Rick’s lament rang silver-edged with glory, the touch of God’s love.

Mrs. Kathy is a friend, far away. She too, has taught me the song of Love. Cancer invaded her life too, already stolen away her mother and a sister. Now, another sister lies as the disease eats away at her brittle bones. People call such things tragedies, and I suppose it is. But in the face of death and decay and the gray places of the world a song peals out still–the flagrant tune of Love that conquers. Mrs. Kathy knows the song, as she and her grown-up kids take turns driving 2 hours every day to take her sister to the cancer center for treatment. They play music and talk and pray and shower the love of God on a wearing-out body, trusting in Christ alone for the reward of their labor. For Love is a hard, hard song to sing.

My Dad taught me a few bars of the Love song. A few weeks ago, he packed up and traveled over state lines to visit an aging relative. This relative, kind as she is, wants little to do with him. Phone calls are tolerated. Meetings over breakfast–sometimes. But actual interaction? She has no interest. In spite of her, my dad went to visit. Rumors had drifted in that her house was a wreck. We heard little of the next few days, but later learned that my dad had spent hours scrubbing a home that had not been cleaned for years. The hair of seven indoor cats, along with the stinging smell of ammonia from months of used litter and a collection of garage sale finds–all these things my dad reported to us in understatement. But we knew. We knew when he came home rasping, almost voiceless from the vapors he had inhaled over the past days. What is Love, if not this?

Love is starting to scare me. It’s no longer a matter of clean words and sanitary deeds and primly-dressed intentions.  Love is curiously messy and crazily involved. It is painful and unclear and full of sleepless nights and congested days.

Jesus set an example of Love for us–forgiveness for the traitor, patience for the clueless, tenderness in the pain, unending.

I am frightened. I am supposed to be an adult. But here I am, writing about Love, hearing its song all around me.

And I feel like a child, unable to walk.


It is the basic Christian virtue–“the greatest of these,” the quality that God claims as one of His names. And I can’t even take a step.

Love’s song should be as basic as humming a few bars of “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” a Christianity 101 of sorts. But I’ve suddenly lost my voice.

These examples–the grown-up people, the true adults in my life–prove to me that the song of Love is not forgotten, and that God’s children can learn its melody.

But they’re playing Beethoven when all I can find is middle C. I know right now that I am not enough. I am incapable of Love–at least, on my own.

But if Love Himself has made my dead heart pound to life, I think He can teach numb lips a new song.

I don’t think I’ll get all the words the first time. I expect some of the lyrics to hurt like a knife to the soul. I think I’ll sing a little flat sometimes. But you’ve never heard a symphony until you’ve heard the sound of Love. Minors of pain, trills of joy–all God’s notes, every one of them.

I’m not so scared after all.

This song….

It’s hard, way harder than I knew.

It’s painful, because every note points to the rebirth of the world ahead, when my Jesus makes all things new.

It’s costly, because in order to sing it right, you have to die.

But don’t worry. Love is worth it.

He always is.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

– Romans 5:1-5 –

Have you heard the melody?

Comment below and share how God’s love has been poured out through your friends and family!




A Light That Cannot Hide


“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Matthew 5:14

If there’s one thing I want people to remember about me, it is the fact that I found joy in my Jesus.

I want them to hardly be able to picture me without a smile.

I want them to remember me when my dreams seem to be crushed to pieces and I can still smile through the tears and say that He lives, the first and last hope of my soul.

Sisters, I have to stop this rolling on and on of my self-pursuit. My own schedule, my own dreams, my own agenda.

You have to stop it too.

Many of you girls know me. You know that I’m not very shy, and those of you that really know me have seen me with tears in my eyes as I share a passion of my soul.

If I could invite you over right now and sit on my bed with you, we’d both wrap up in quilts and you could tell me about the hurt and I could tell you how I’ve been there too. I could tell you that Jesus was there.

He’s the reason I can breathe and say that it’s okay. He’s the source of strength for the next smile that hard to come by or the next tongue-biting when I really want to stab back.

So why do I forget?

Why do you forget?

I know you, my sisters. You struggle and cry and forget. Every moment, you forget.

But it has to be different, because we are the light of the world.

A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

God just may have to clear away all our underbrush of forgetting and self-seeking before the world says, “I want what she has.”

Do you know what? I’m sitting here pecking the keyboard and I don’t know how to finish. Because I am so scared to wake up again tomorrow with another day of forgetfulness.

Sisters, let us draw near to the throne of grace. It is only there that we will find the strength for that other-worldly smile when the day is slamming against our nerves.

What does He say? He promises that He is faithful and will not give us more than we can bear—with His strength, that is.

As I write you now, I plead with myself. Shelbie, don’t forget. Shelbie, cling to Him.

I can’t do it on my own. And neither can you. Haven’t I tried—haven’t we all?

I type more slowly, glance at the clock, see that I have only one minute to finish and crawl into bed. But the soul-intensity is there and I wonder if it will be gone when I wake up tomorrow.

I’m praying for you, sisters. Pray for me. Pray that God’s grace would fill me and His joy would flow from my smile.

Because I’m broken tonight on my own.

One of my favorite hymns is this:

“Take my life, and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days. Let them flow in ceaseless praise.”

“Let them flow in ceaseless praise.”

And the light will not be able to hide.