Wednesday, August 19, 2009
SOTD: Matt Kearney, "Closer to Love"
Instead of the traditional SOTD format, I'm doing a little soul-searching today...
In the past few years, I've realized that a big part of growing up is learning to deal with the inevitable pain of this world. The things I cried about in my sheltered youth seem so trivial compared to the hurts I know now. In high school, I was such a perfectionist that a B- on a test would wreck me completely-- I distinctly remember bawling in the bathroom one morning because I wasn't selected to be on the Senior Class Council. Now, those tears just seem silly in light of real suffering brought on by death, addiction, abuse, disease. The list goes on.
This weekend I saw three of my best friends from college. While the weekend was a welcome break from the monotony of my recent life, it was not without its share of sorrow. On Saturday afternoon, I sat in my bed and sobbed to one friend about some of the things that have been going on in my life. On Sunday, I held another friend's hand as she sat in the front seat of my car and wept about the things going on in her life.
Later that afternoon I remarked that the deeper my friendships grow, the more tears we seem to shed together.
That, I'm learning, is the very nature of love. Our culture perpetuates this myth that love is a wonderful, euphoric feeling. The truth is, when we allow ourselves to really care about another person-- friend, spouse, family member, whoever--sooner or later we're going to get hurt. It's not that everyone we love is going to hurt us, but everyone we love is going to hurt. And if we really love them-- their pain will become our pain, too.
C.S. Lewis put it best in his book The Four Loves:
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. 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 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. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
I take great comfort in the knowledge that God's love is no exception to this rule. If we feel empathy for the hurts of our loved ones, how much greater is his empathy for us? If we weep when we are rejected, how many more tears does he shed over our indifference to him? God knows what pain feels like because he's been there. Jesus lived a life devoid of sin, but he did not live a life devoid of suffering. In his lifetime he saw friends die and was betrayed and ditched by the people who claimed to love him the most. And in his death, he suffered the ultimate rejection--already abandoned by his disciples, Jesus saw God, his father and creator, turn his back on him.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. --Hebrews 4:15-16
I also have faith that our tears are not shed in vain, just as Jesus' suffering on the cross was not in vain. God will make good on his promise to redeem the sorrows of this world.
On this point, I'll leave you with Dostoevsky, whose words are far more eloquent than mine.
I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the important and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.