“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 of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
It’s funny to me that he uses the metaphor of a coffin, because sometimes love feels like death. Sometimes love is death. And I don’t mean to dramatize my life or sound like a martyr (which for some reason has taken on a pejorative sense), but that’s what I’ve been feeling like these past few days.
Forgive me for doing this because it may sound presumptuous. But one of the things I find so striking about Jesus is that he spent three years pouring into a community that he knew (he must have known) would abandon him as soon as things got messy. He tells them over and over that being his disciple means certain death by torture (and resurrection, too), but they’re just complete fools the whole time. Judas was obviously bad, but the rest of the disciples weren’t much better, and as soon as Judas shows up in Gethsemane with the Pharisees and high priests, they scatter like cockroaches. To be betrayed by the ones you care about the most is the worst kind of pain.
Some people engage in community only when they think they won’t get hurt. That’s naivete. Others engage when they still might get hurt. That’s courage. But Jesus entered into a world where he knew (he must have known!) he’d get hurt. That’s ministry. And if I can live that out in some small way, if I can die to myself and participate in the way he suffered, in the tiniest fraction, then I know I participate in His resurrection as well. The new life can then begin; indeed, the new life has already begun. Love like that is pure and vibrant and strong.
So no, no casket of bitterness and regret for me. The only way to healing is through these black eyes and broken bones. Love despite people, love despite myself even. And then (and then!) new life. New life is what I’m feeling today.
I’ll tell you what though: people are SO worth it. Some days, I get to ask with Merton: how do you tell people that they are shining like the sun?