Meandering of the Mind... about daring to love
As humans, we spend our lives looking for people to love. Young adults search for the perfect person with whom they may share the remainder of their lives - often they move on to dreams of parenthood, searching again for still more perfect persons whom they may love. We reach out eagerly in those years, looking forward to decades of "wedded bliss".
If we were very fortunate to have had a stable, healthy childhood, we might imagine that loving someone else is easy to do. Especially if those who chose to love us (our parents, our friends) shared only their favored treasures with us rather a larger, truer scope, which includes painful lessons. Without the fuller understanding of the elements of love we may not have perceived that to love envelopes both joy and pain and that trust is necessary to both. We might envision that the person we chose to love will safeguard that trust by remaining the same as when we first met, thus not becoming someone we did not choose to love. We might expect someone we love to provide comfort and protection from pain, to never be the source that would create a frightening storm that could blow into our lives. In short, we might come to only know that love is only patient and kind, never rude.
But my experience has told me that loving someone is not always joyful or easy. And sometimes I'm not sure it is something I even want to do, for I have learned that when I choose to love another, I am laying out my self, my time, my energy, my soul for another to use … or abuse. I know for a fact, that if we remain open for embracing all of life, we are much more vulnerable for attack.
When we have only had experiences from those we love that were positive and made us happy, our understanding of love is at best immature. We see love as only presenting one element of the world. We may not welcome the balance of life, only choosing the sun of day, not the stars of night - not knowing that they are both sources of energy. We let our fear determine the hours we spend open for new experiences. If we are cautious or inexperienced with challenge we choose the light of day for there are fewer secrets hidden, fewer "tigers under the bed" in the day. In the dark of night, our risk for hurt becomes greater with each step. It requires the element of faith as we risk a stubbed toe or a fall into an open, unseen abyss. Often I choose only the sunny side of life and would choose to hide away safely in my own bed during the night, resting peacefully perhaps, but never experiencing the stars.
We want Jerusalem rather than Gethsemane.
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. . . . If you want to make sure of keeping [your heart] intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket 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 only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the danger of love is Hell.
Those of us who spend our lives constantly protecting our hearts, live lonely lives, but perhaps those lives are not as tumultuous as those of us who take risks are. Risk-takers will find great sources for exhilaration and laughter, but will more certainly also cry more than their "fair share" of tears. Risk-takers have experienced the beauty of the tears and know that they cleanse our eyes to see the reality of the world. Tears keep us honest by washing away the daily debris that gathers there. Our ability to continue to include those who hurt us (because they became ill, because they went away, because they changed, or chose to embrace another) is exactly what love is. Love rejoices in the right, hopes all things, endures all things. It does not pass away.
Certainly we can try to hide in the darkness, but not if we choose life and love. For to truly love another, to experience their joy and their sorrow, we must not close our eyes to opportunities for sharing other's lives.
Years ago, our son David, taught me a life lesson. His past experiences with pain and loss along with his knowledge of trust and fulfillment opened my eyes to a new perception. I had asked David what his life was like as the older brother of a sibling with exceptional challenges. His reply was memorable. David explained that having Kate as a sister was much like taking a difficult course at Harvard versus an easy course in high school. One required little, but you gained little, the other was rigorous, requiring much energy, time and denial of other pleasures. David chose Harvard. He decided the struggle was worth the effort, for he found he is a stronger, fuller person for having chosen to remain in the difficult course of study and not ignore it or run away. Did Kate intentionally hurt David by being autistic? Of course not, but she did hurt him. His hurt intensified because he could not take away her pain. He did choose to walk beside her and take on her weakness by sharing her load, learning her lessons. Lessons that are sometimes learned in the light of day, but more often stumbled across in the dark of night. David, our courageous son, has learned to embrace the night.
Those people who live with significantly painful elements in their own lives provide for us the impetus for growth (that very element of creation!)… and by allowing for growth, we embrace the Creator. These people, those who live with painful sorrow yet joy become our tour guides to mysteries of life and when we choose to share their nighttime adventures (often scary, uncertain and painful though they are) we get to see the beauty of the night and learn the glories of the stars!
Portions of this piece will be included in the book Sighs Too Deep for Words copyright May 2005 by Martha Kate Downey