His tiny body convulsing in pain, beads of sweat on his face, terror in his eyes, blood pooling over his eye again and again.

I think of another precious son, sweating drops of blood in a Garden, praying please save me from the hour of trial.

Needle after needle injecting anesthetic into the wound. “It’s gonna hurt a lot, but then it’s gonna make you feel better,” I try to keep my voice calm as I reassure the both of us. I relax my grip and a little hand flies up to stop the needle. More blood gushes over his eye. “Augh, sorry!” I apologize.

His screaming subsides just a bit for him to attempt sitting up to make an escape. I can hardly bear holding him down as I notice him wetting his pants with the pain and trauma.

This is not going to be easy, I brace myself as I lie beside him, tightly holding his arms on the hospital bed.

“Time for the salt bath,” says the doctor.

Salt in a wound. I imagine the sting my innocent little son will feel. A pump placed vertically over my two-year-old’s head splashes the wound and sprays both eyes with plenty of saline solution, soaking his already wet back.

Now we are ready for the stitches. I hope to God the anesthetic worked. The screaming continues, I sing his favorite songs about wheels and buses but I know I am helpless to soothe him. Helpless. The worst feeling as a mom.

I remember Mary’s face as she followed Jesus along the path to Calvary, white with helplessness.

He swings his head side-to-side, the needle catches and more blood runs over his eyes, down his face.

“Just a minute. His blood pressure is doubled with all the crying.” The doctor applies gauze and pressure. “Let’s go again.”

God, no! I want to stop. Say it was too much. If he keeps swinging his head and the stitches are a mess, won’t that be worse in the end?

Doctor finishes. It’s over. Zion’s body collapses on mine, and he says, “Let’s go home.”

Love is a lot like stitches. It hurts like all else. But in the end it heals us.

I caught myself myself wondering this week, “Is it worth it?” This love, this overwhelming passionate, genuine love for others. So many goodbyes, so many deaths. Can I keep giving my heart away freely?

There was Naomi in Uganda, with her daily dose of laughter, dancing, and prayers over me when I was sick. Eating her homemade food and enjoying hospitality in her cardboard-walled home. Giving her, my maid, a pay-it-back kind of day was ridiculous fun! Sweeping her house, lighting her charcoal stove, making her neighbors giggle seeing a “Muzungu” working for her. “What tribe are you from?” she joked. “God’s tribe,” I smiled back. We were sisters.

Naomi is in heaven now, with all of her babies lost too soon, but I know I’ll see her again.

Then there’s Brenda. She sold bananas and tomatoes down the street from me. The day I came to sit with her just to talk, not to buy anything, was the day we became friends. She gave me bananas knowing I couldn’t pay. It was a costly gift, and I called it friendship. One day I took her out to buy clothes, mosquito nets, and blankets for her family so often sick with malaria. She couldn’t stop smiling. I gave her my yellow bicycle when we suddenly left Uganda, and I will probably never see her again. She called me crying to say goodbye before our flight.

We’ve lost so many friends here. Randy and Mary Anna, who were like grandparents to our kids, Eric and Elaine, who hosted our first Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Amy and Wyatt, who were great people who served alongside us at church and also in Ng’ombe, and now Mabel and her 5 kids, our first friends in Zambia.

But I will go on. Let me catch my breath. Give me a minute to recover, then I will open my heart again. Because that’s what God does with humankind every day. We hurt him, we leave him, and he loves us still.

He doesn’t hold anything back, giving us his one and only Son to pour his blood for us. To win us, to woo us to his deep, passionate heart of love.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

I have found the perfect paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.  -Mother Teresa

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