Thursday, July 10, 2014
Love is painful.
It is also beautiful, sublime, fantastic and awesome.
But love is also painful.
The sooner we learn this, the sooner we can move on to maturity in our faith, and in our life.
We all stood together in a semi-circle under the late afternoon sun, our heads hanging low.
Our eyes red with tears.
"Do you want to say anything?" my wife asked my sons. There was a silent pause as we stood around the hole my wife had dug in the ground near the back fence.
"No," my youngest said.
"It's not fair," my oldest said.
And it wasn't.
A few hours ago my youngest son had found her body, what was left of her, in our back yard.
"I found Little Momma," David said over the phone. "She's dead."
Those words hit me hard. I knew they would hit my wife and my oldest son even harder.
But now here we were, standing around this hole in the ground and doing our best to hold our emotions in check.
There were many lessons to be learned in that moment. Most of them went unspoken. But I did my best anyway.
"She was a gift to us," I said. "She knew that we loved her, very much."
It didn't take the pain away. It might even have made it worse. I'm not sure.
One quote that came to my mind in that moment, as I leaned against the shovel, went unspoken. It was a quote by C.S. Lewis that says:
"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.”
Later, when we had said all we could say, when we had each placed our own handful of dirt over her, when I had buried what was left of her and our boys had slowly walked back into the house, my wife and I stood alone on the grass.
We reflected on what our boys would learn from this; how it would affect them at this stage of their life. My wife suggested that it would help them to develop more compassion for the pain of others; that it would soften their hearts more.
We both remembered the pain that others we know are suffering now. The passing of a brother, or the end of a marriage, or the sudden death of a spouse.
We were the lucky ones. In comparison, our pain was minimal, yet still deep enough to take our breath away. Real enough to make us thankful for what we still have left to hold on to.
There is a saying - a myth really - that Christians often quote to one another in times of suffering. They say, "God never gives us more than we can handle." As if our suffering is proportional to our level of faith. As if our friends die because we're too spiritual, or our children get sick because we're so close to God?
The scripture we mangle to arrive at this platitude is actually about being tempted and God always giving us a way to escape that temptation.
The truth is that God almost always gives us more than we can handle.
Because He loves us. Because He wants us to know that we can lean on Him - hard - for everything that life can possibly throw at us.
God portions out our suffering in relation to our need to know that He is able to carry us through it.
Because of love. Which is beautiful, and marvelous, and wonderful, and yes, sometimes, very painful.
Our promise is not that we will never endure suffering. Our promise is that, when we do, we will not endure it alone.
He is with us. He will never forsake us.
We will never have to say goodbye to Him, or His love.
For that we are very grateful.