Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

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Love’s Inevitable Risk

February 10, 2007

Heartbreak — one of those inevitable disturbances that must happen to everyone as they grow up.  Certainly, it needn’t be heartbreak in a romantic affair: love a dog, and when that dog dies, your heart will break.  Love a gift, a family heirloom, and when you lose that thing you cannot replace, tears will stream down you face (props to Coldplay!).  Actually, I think Coldplay has a lot of wisdom on this subject.  They recognize quite well in their song “What If” that love, by its very nature, is prone to the risk of heartbreak.  Look at what they have to say on the subject (and this is only one verse of the song):

Every step that you take
Could be your biggest mistake.
It could bend or it could break
But that’s the risk that you take.
What if you should decide
That you don’t want me there in your life?
That you don’t want me there by your side?

Coldplay goes on to say that because of this risk, “Let’s take a breath, jump over the side.”  In other words, yes, there is a fundamental risk involved in love, but we can’t let that risk keep us from loving.  I think C. S. Lewis makes this point masterfully in The Four Loves (a book that I haven’t read in its entirety yet, but I will the first chance I get!):

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.

 Wow, that is a long quote, but Lewis captures the essence of love’s risk so poetically that I had to include the whole thing.  For clarity and profundity, there’s no one that can beat C. S. Lewis!  Before I close this assimilated post of sundry quotes on this topic, I thought I would make one last reference.  I watched Casino Royale a couple of weeks ago and it quickly became one of my favorite movies (thoughts on it are coming soon, I promise!).  One thing in particular impacted me about the movie.  Here is James Bond, agent 007, the nearly-invincible Mr. Macho himself.  Who can hurt him?  Yet, in this movie, Mr. Bond finally finds true love (I’m sure some would debate this claim, but I think this is what the filmmakers wanted to communicate at the end of the film).  How does Bond describe this new love he has found?

I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.

Sounds a lot like vulnerability, doesn’t it?  Love is the loss of one’s armor, the opening of one’s heart; what could be more dangerous than that?  Closing one’s self off from love to avoid pain.  As Coldplay melodiously says, “Let’s take a breath, jump over the side.”  Will it hurt?  Most definitely.  But that’s the way it’s done, and there’s no other alternative but Hell.

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A Great and Terrible Quote

January 9, 2007

Over Christmas vacation, I took a break from the rather difficult books I’ve been reading lately (Locke, Hobbes, and Edwards are not easy pleasure reading material!) and decided to read something for sheer pleasure (I know, naughty, naughty me).  I decided on a book that I had read in my younger days, when I still had time to read exciting novels for hours every day.  The book I selected is Margaret Lovett’s The Great and Terrible Quest.  I  remembered reading this book several years ago and liking it immensely; thus, to satisfy my weary mind with some good fiction, I reread this book during vacation.

First of all, I was not disappointed at all by rereading this book.  I know that sometimes, when we remember something as beautiful and sublime (hmm, Edmund Burke would consider describing something with those two words contradictory, considering what he wrote on beauty and sublimity) when we are young, we are disappointed when we return to it after years have passed.  The wonder and magic that was there in childhood commonly abandons the work once we have left infancy.  That was not the case with this book, however.  If you want to read an entertaining, exciting, and even humorous account of a knight in the Middle Ages, you should read this book.

Without going into the plot or giving a complete review of the book, I just wanted to note one very interesting quote that struck me as I read it.  A young boy is talking to a wise, old woman about his despicable, hateful grandfather and how anyone could turn out as he did.  The old woman replies that the old man is embittered by the hurt his daughter — whom he dearly loved — caused him.  The little boy cannot comprehend this statement at all, and the woman replies by saying,

Ah, you’m too young to know the hate that love flouted can turn to.

I’m not making any arcane statements here, but I did find that quote extremely interesting and profound.  Yes, silly human beings that we are; what we think is love can easily turn to hate if we’re not careful to forgive and forget.  In the words of Coldplay (which has very quickly joined the ranks of my five favorite musical groups),

Oh, what good is it to live
With nothing left to give?
Forget, but not forgive
Not loving all you see?
(From “Swallowed in the Sea“)

Anyway, just a couple of random thoughts that I’ve had lately.  I felt like I should post, since it probably looks like I’ve abandoned this blog.  I’m going to write some thoughts on movies we watched during vacation, including Lady in the Water, V for Vendetta, and Casino Royale.  That’ll be coming soon!  Until then, find a copy of The Great and Terrible Quest and enjoy a great little book!

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A Hole God Does Not Fill

December 19, 2006

When Christians are faced with the pain and aching in the world, I think it is safe to say that they usually blame it all on mankind’s fall into sin.  Indeed, had Adam resisted the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6), there would be no suffering and hurt in this world, would there?  We would all live in a peaceful utopia, just as Adam did before he made his fateful mistake.  I must agree with the general conclusion that pain and sin are results of the fall and the entire world would be much better off if Adam had resisted the hideously beautiful fruit.  Before sinning, Adam had a perfect relationship with God.  There was no pride, hatred, lust, greed, envy — in short, no sin to separate God from His greatest creation.  In fact, the Bible seems to imply that Adam would walk throughout the garden with God during the “cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8).  Adam probably had the closest relationship a man could ever have with God; while Moses may have been the man closest to God after the fall, a post-fall relationship could not compare to the completely perfect relationship Adam had with God before the fall occurred.  And yet, even in this utopia and perfect relationship with God, all was not well.

The Genesis account is filled with God’s proclaiming His creation good, from the Seas and the Earth (Gen. 1:10) to the trees and plants of the field (1:12).  The crowning moment of creation, however, happened when God created man in His own image and then proclaimed His entire work “very good” (Gen. 1:31).  One can only imagine what it must have been like to be Adam, “born” into a perfect world with God as His Parent, walking with Him as one walks with fellow humans.  What more could one ask for?  God, in His wisdom, saw that all was not good.  Moses puts it this way:

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (NKJV, Gen. 2:18).

Despite his perfect relationship with God and the wonderful world he lived in, Adam could not be complete until God made a helper suitable for him.  There was a “hole” inside Adam that even his perfect relationship with God did not fill.  When we’re feeling lonely or rejected, we’ve all heard the consolation from fellow believers that “only God can fill your heart.”  There’s truth in that statement — one will never find complete satisfaction in even the most wonderful love (a lesson powerfully illustrated in Sheldon Vanauken’s amazing book A Severe Mercy).  It is unreasonable, though, to tell people that God will fulfill their longing for another person to love and cherish; God, in His perfect relationship with the first man, recognized that Adam needed another human to love.  Granted, I’m sure God could (and sometimes does — see 1 Cor. 7:37) take away that desire, but He never fulfills it Himself, for another human was meant do to that.  I like how John Locke put it in his Second Treatise of Government:

God having made man such a creature, that in his own judgment, it was not good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligations of necessity, convenience, and inclination to drive him into society, as well as fitted him with understanding and language to continue and enjoy it.  The first society was between a man and wife…

Now, I realize that what I’m saying here could be misinterpreted to an extreme.  I’m not saying that we should first of all seek love — the Apostle Paul warns for him who is “loosed from a wife” to not seek one (1 Cor. 7:27).  In addition to this, God promises that if we seek first His kingdom, the rest will be added unto us (Matt. 6:33) and that the desires of our hearts can be found only be delighting first in Him (Ps. 37:4).  A tragic and horrifying (if somewhat extreme) example of what results when we seek love above God can be read in this recent story at the LA Times.  (Read the story at your own risk — it can get both sexually and violently graphic.) 

In the end, I’m not advocating the idea that we should seek love above God; that is making and idol of a good thing and will only lead to heartache and problems, as illustrated in the LA Times story above.  Still, it is untrue that God will “fill the hole in our hearts” for romantic love when He is the one who put it there in the first place.  We must seek Him first, certainly, but we must not expect Him to fulfill something He never intended to.  All we can do is trust that, if that emptiness is inside us, He will one day bring the only one who can truly fill it.

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Impossible Friendships

December 14, 2006

No one in their right mind will deny that Tolkien was a master storyteller.  Not only is his epic tale The Lord of the Rings one of the most incredible and powerful works of all time, but his children’s story The Hobbit is also very popular.  Clearly, Tolkien knew what it takes to be a successful writer of fantasy.  There is a side of Tolkien, however, that has often been neglected — his role as a father and Christian man.  I admit that I myself do not know that much about this side of Tolkien; perhaps sitting down with a copy of his published letters or reading Humphrey Carpenter’s extensive biography on the man would enlighten me more to his human side.  At present, though, the only thing I have to vouch for Tolkien’s wisdom as a father is a letter published at Albert Mohler’s blog.  I find this letter replete with wisdom that an older Tolkien was handing down to his son on the issues of sex and male/female relationships. 

In this letter, Tolkien not only warns his son about the dangers of the modern world’s view on sexuality, but (as I will focus on in this post) also warns his son that pure friendships are not possible between young men and women.  Mohler put it this way:

Taking the point further, Tolkien warned his son that “friendship” between a young man and a young woman, supposedly free from sexual desire, would not remain untroubled by sexual attraction for long. At least one of the partners is almost certain to be inflamed with sexual passion, Tolkien advised. This is especially true among the young, for Tolkien believed that such friendships might be possible later in life, “when sex cools down.”

Tolkien’s wisdom on this point is priceless.  How many times have we heard the assurance from questioned individuals that a relationship is only innocent friendship?  “We’re just friends, and nothing more,” we like to say.  Yet, if Tolkien is correct, this can never truly be the case between a young man and a young woman.  The trouble is the very nature of friendship.

Friends are people who share common interests and enjoy each others’ company; people who trust each other and are united in a fight for a common goal.  Yet, even more, friends are people who share their hearts with each other — a true friend is a person to whom you can run when you have a problem, knowing that they will support you and help you through that trial.  You can tell a good friend nearly anything and he will be happy to listen and offer you advice.  This is true friendship.

The trouble with boy/girl “friendships” is that it naturally involves a similar sharing of the hearts and affections.  This presents no difficulty for the average same-sex friendship, for friends can share their hearts deeply with each other and want nothing more.  (There are a few queer exceptions to this general rule, but they are not the norm.)  A man and a woman, however, were made for more.  They were not only made to share their hearts as much (and even more) than friends do, but they were designed to share everything with each other.  Thus, when the sharing inherent to friendship occurs, it is almost certain that more sharing will be desired by one of the “friends.”  This is, after all, a natural desire.

Someday, a person will find the spouse with whom they will become best of friends — better friends than they could ever be with a person of their own sex.  The trouble is, it’s very easy to slide into premature friendships with members of the opposite sex before that chosen time.  I’m in no way advocating a total separation of the sexes and no friendship at all between them.  I’m just pointing out the danger of such friendships.  Light, casual friendships are very possible and beneficial between the sexes, but if that friendship ever progresses to something more serious, beware.  Until you have certainly found the person who you will one day marry, keep close friendships only with those of your own sex.  Anything else will only result in desires and expectations that are, most likely, false and misleading, and believe me, you want to avoid such misconceptions at all costs.  So, girls, realize that you can never be “best friends” with a guy and nothing more — it just doesn’t work that way.  And, guys, beware of the temptation to call close girl friends “just friends,” as this friendship it will inevitably lead to something quite different in the end.