Dangerous Love (A Sword to the Soul)

October 5, 2009 | 28 comments

The nurse’s name was Angel. She could see I was struggling, losing my focus, buckling under contracting pain. She leaned over the hospital-bed rail, gripped my chin and put her nose to mine.

“You can do this,” she ordered like a metronome who paced the breaths of one so wide-eyed and unsure.

Nine minutes later, on a Friday afternoon in 2001, a baby girl was born. And so was a mother.

My pain disappeared — but only for a time. Because love like this? It hurts.

Someone once said that having a baby “is to forever decide to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” A cousin gave us a framed print with those words shortly after our baby was born. But I didn’t understand what it meant until we left the hospital with this human soul to feed and nurture.

I cried most of the way home that day, my heart swelling with both joy and fear. This was dangerous love, letting a heart go walking around like this.

Because when a woman becomes a mother, her heart is suddenly and completely vulnerable.

The only means for survival? Grace …


When I think of Grace, I think of Mary, Mother of the God-Man.

Mary, full of grace.

With newborn resting in her arms, the new mama treasured and pondered the beauty of Bethlehem. Thirty-three years later, she watched her son die on Calvary.

But Mary didn’t have to wait for Calvary to watch her heart go a-walkin’. She had to relent control almost from the start.

Days after Bethlehem, an old man in the temple held Miniature Messiah. He looked Mary straight in the eye:
“A sword will pierce your own soul, too.”

The Catholics call this the first of the Seven Sorrows. Mary would endure more. Later, she lost Jesus, age 12, at the temple. Her son grew up a wanderer. He befriended the worst of sinners. He infuriated religious leaders.

Did Mary stay quiet when people rejected Him, including her neighbors, friends and relatives? How often did Mary show up at the market to find huddles of whispering women, glancing over shoulders at her, a dirt-poor mother of a carpenter who couldn’t even afford a proper lamb for her son’s consecration? (She and Joseph brought two pigeons instead.)

And when Mama, full of grace, wanted to see her son? Jesus made her wait.

At the wedding, her beloved son called her Woman. Why not Mama?

Mary needed the fullness of grace at the foot of a cross, but she needed it as a mother, too.

I wonder how often the Old Man’s words echoed in her spirit:

Sword to the soul.
Sword to the soul.
Sword to the soul.

Mary’s heart had gone walking around outside her body, to be pierced and pierced again.


And then came the nails.

She watched her heart go walking straight up a hill with a cross on His back. The woman who birthed Grace watched Him die.

Mama was the first to join with Christ in his sufferings. Behold the man on the cross: Her baby grew up to become her Savior.


O Lord, my Savior,
You are the Christ, being formed daily in me. But will I, like Mary, birth grace to join with you in your sufferings? She saw you in your fullness — as more than her Son but as her Savior. Lord, help me to see you in the fullness of who you are — not just a friend or a healer or a counselor or a comforter. You, my Lord, are Savior.


I explore grace today with L.L. Barkat at Seedlings in Stone. Would you join the conversation at Seedlings in Stone? She’s hosting a giveaway of Scot McKnight’s book: The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus. Leave a comment there by 6 p.m. EST on Thursday for a chance to win.

Photo of Lydia, six days old.

Photo of painting, “Sword Will Pierce Your Heart,” used with permission by artist, Daniel Bonnell. (Visit his online gallery of stunning Christian art.)

by | October 5, 2009 | 28 comments


  1. L.L. Barkat

    Well, you've brought me to tears.

    I loved… "This was dangerous love, letting a heart go walking around like this."

    And the part about Mary being first to join His sufferings. Ah, Jennifer, truly lovely.

  2. RCUBEs

    What a beautiful post sister Jennifer! I can't imagine Mary's pain to see her Son being pierced with those nails.

    Reminds me of that song "Mary Did You Know" with this particular part:
    "Did you know
    That your baby boy has come to make you new?
    This child that you've delivered
    Will soon deliver you…"
    God bless you.

  3. Doug Spurling

    Amazing simply amazing grace

  4. Tabitha@ichoosebliss

    I am simply in awe of your words. I am a mother and can not imagine what Mary went through. I agree that when you become a mother your heart is truly exposed for all to see.


  5. Bina

    Good morning, Miss Jennifer! 🙂

    Funny that you posted this as Mary has been very "close" to my heart as of late. Our women's retreat will be meeting this coming weekend and 3 of our ladies were given the task to write and perform a monolouge as one of the gal's in Jesus's birth line…and I was given Mary.

    I struggled with this character assignment as I felt that I had NOTHING in common with her, even tho His Spirit called to mine to say different. Pushing me to dig deeper and find where she and I intersected in personality…I found it in control. In a desire to "understand" where the road is going and to plan the journey.

    I will be posting my written piece this weekend, when I am gone to retreat…but would like to have you read it. Will email it to you – would love to hear your feedback as you have written this today.

    Many hugs to you,

  6. Deborah Ann

    Ah, beautiful, Jennifer! I often think how Mary must have suffered so. I think if I were in her shoes, I would have had to be committed, I think that would have been more than I could bear, what they did to my son.

  7. ~*Michelle*~

    This post not only brought me to tears….it stirred up such raw emotions in my heart. Somehow the word "pierce" is making it hard to swallow, literally. It's so humbling.

    Thank you for this amazing post…

    And yes! Rcubes! I instantly thought of that beautiful song!!!!

  8. Jessica

    So beautiful, Jennifer. So beautiful.

  9. spaghettipie

    Jennifer –
    I'm here often, but not so great at commenting as much. Loved your post. Loved it. You are such a beautiful writer. Jesus overflows, knits the words, brings much encouragement.
    Thanks for being a vessel.

  10. Bina

    …I just realized how selfish I sounded in my post! Forgive me…just re-read it and shook my head at myself.

    Your post was moving and beautiful…and I meant NO disrespect to you. I loved the portrait posted as well…stared at it for a very long time.

    As always, I am in awe of your words in print 🙂

  11. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    No disrespect taken, even in the least, sweet sweet Bina.

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on Mary. I'm honored that you would grant me a "sneak peek."

  12. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    Just amazing. I loved every word of this.

  13. lynnrush

    Wow! Where you wrote, "…is to forever decide to have your heart go walking around outside your body." my skin prickled and tears stung.

    I don't have kids so I don't know that by experience, but that sentence sure gives me a picture . . . and new respect for my mom! AND my hubby's mom, who he left to be with me when he married me. WOW!

  14. Anne L.B.

    The only means for survival? Grace …

    Oh, Jennifer! How often we need the reminder that grace is really all we need. Thank you for this tender, evocative post. I'm so blessed.

    And now that you've mentioned it, I suppose all love IS dangerous.

  15. Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience

    Potent writing, pulsing with Christ, wise friend…
    Grace as survival…
    He gives you truth and you transcribe….

    How I send love….

    All's grace,

  16. Lyla Lindquist

    I snuck a peek at your words, rain streaking my windshield as I drove across your Iowa landscape this morning (ignore the implications of this claim adjuster's irresponsible driving habits).

    I had to set those words aside for later as tears threatened to streak my face as well.

    Holed up in the quiet of my hotel room now, I can savor. My, how you lace together words for so piercing a truth such as this. One of the few who can find the vulnerable underbelly of this hard fortress heart of mine.

    How do you carry all this inside you? Does your heart not threaten to explode?

  17. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought

    You leave me gasping sometimes with the way you thoughtfully word things.

    You captured something deep and raw in this post!
    ~ Wendy

  18. Doug Spurling

    Wow, I thought I was reading my own comment reading Lyla's. I too an insurance adjuster read as I drove. I had to pull over as the flapping windshield wipers wouldn't clear watering eyes.

    I pulled over and all I could write was Amazing, amazing Grace.

    Dangerous love – dangerous, beautiful post, thank you.

  19. Rosario

    Amazing. I love the way you wrote this post. I know understand Mary pain even more, from a mother's point of view.

  20. Lyla Lindquist

    I'll try not to spoil the mood here, but Doug, nice to meet you. Made me chuckle to think of claim reps driving, and well …

    I suppose this is how we keep ourselves in business, eh?

    Jennifer, back to your regularly scheduled programming…

  21. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Lyla and Doug,

    This post was about dangerous LOVE, not dangerous driving. Keep your eyes on the road. -wink-

  22. Graceful

    Hi Jennifer,
    I am new to your blog — love it! Last week my sister emailed me that quote you reference in your post — we were marveling over the truth of it.

    Thanks for your beautiful writing (I see that you used to write for the Omaha World Herald…I am a transplant from MA to Lincoln, NE).

    See you…

  23. Runner Mom

    This was beautiful! So many things about Mary that you brought to light. I too had pondered as to why Jesus called her Woman and not Mama. Still do! Thank you sweet friend!

  24. christy rose

    Once again you have given us beauty to behold as we read this post. My imagination grasping the picture of the life of Jesus and Mary in her efforts to mother her son, the Son of God. It's overwhelming to digest it all.

  25. Heidi

    Thanks for that! We just found out we are expecting for the first time a week ago. Thanks for the perspective!

  26. janelle

    This is beautiful, my friend.

  27. Steve

    God bless you

  28. Billy Coffey

    I never knew fear until my children were born.

    I never knew love, either.

    Your words sing, Jennifer!


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