To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be
wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact
you must give it 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. To love is to be vulnerable.
Many years ago, in my mid-twenties, I came across C.S. Lewis’s book on the four loves as he defines them: Philia (friendship), Caritas (love of everyone), Eros (passion, erotic love), and Agape (love of God). Lewis’s insights opened a door in my heart and transformed the way I relate to others. The above quote challenged my hesitations to enter into enduring friendships. At the time, I fearfully held my affections tightly inside a heavily guarded heart. I had not yet learned that any true relationship requires the willingness to be open, the trusting readiness to be allow myself to be seen for who I am, both the golden and tarnished aspects of myself.
Why am I writing about “love” now? Well, advertisements everywhere are broadcasting the coming celebration of February 14th, Valentine’s Day. Buy and give flowers, greeting cards, stuffed animals, candy, jewelry, and all sorts of things to show one’s love. All this, however, is fluff, a momentary sign of affection. What truly counts is the willingness to bring alive the words penned long ago, words fresh as today. They are found in 1Cor13, a Biblical passage read at many a wedding and worship service, but swiftly forgotten when personality differences become edgy, or religious and political opinions build high fences:“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”(v.4-5) So few words. Such great potential.
In Almost Everything, Anne Lamott writes: “Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between. Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights. Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a dinghy, a coat. Love is why we have hope. … ‘God is love,’ we Christians like to remind ourselves, and every act of love highlights God in the world, because love is not just an idea. Love is something alive, living, personal, and true, the creating and nourishing power within life. ” (pp.2,154)
Without loving and being loved, the heart becomes limited in its innate ability to care. A person may have very few material possessions but if love embodies that existence, the most difficult experiences can be endured. I recall Viktor Frankl writing about one of his most excruciating moments at Auschwitz, how he chose to go on living when dying felt easier because he held in his mind and heart the vision of his beloved wife.
During this month of February, I plan to memorize 1Cor13:4-5. I’ll pause and allow the verses to become embedded in my consciousness. I hope to carry them into each day, so that what they espouse will become activated in my approach and attitude toward all beings. Perhaps you might join me this month in this life-giving endeavor.