19 January 2010

unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable . . .

C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Four Loves:

In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St Augustine describes the desolation in which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him (Confessions IV, 10). Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one's heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.

Of course this makes excellent sense. Don't put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don't spend too much on a house you may be turned out of . . . Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as "Careful! This might lead you to suffering."

Then Lewis advises that we resist that natural inclination. He says later:

There is no escape along the lines St. Augustine suggests. Nor along any other lines. 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 to 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 have learned to be really good at guarding my heart. Death and fear and loss are excellent teachers. I don't like being sliced open and spilling out. And, yet, vulnerability has given me wings, taught me to fly. It's hard not to coast in protection mode again, but I want to hold onto this freedom of flight instead. I think I quite prefer it.

May we risk jumping from our nests even when we've tried it before and have fallen. When the wind catches our wings, may we be reminded that each flight depends on a greater power. May we risk love—affection, friendship or romantic—and there find our understanding and love of God more magnified.

Other thoughts on love:
St. Catherine's Tree
Sarah Slean's "My Invitation" (last stanza especially)


Kara said...

Thank you for these words, Ciona. And for sharing your journey as you live with them. I'm confident that you will soar on wings like eagles!

CeeDee said...

Beautiful, Ciona! You are so right or I guess Lewis is...to not love is to live in hell. To protect our heart from hurt is to protect our heart from love...

May love always find us and embrace us like a dove as it radiates from The One who originated it on the cross...

Anonymous said...

I needed words like this. I actually just bought this book the other day.