The Risk and Suffering of Love

This from Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost’s Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure and Courage, Ch. 3 (Interview here):

Learning to love, and therefore becoming mature, is no mean feat.  It requires putting oneself on the line and embracing the risk, even likelihood, of pain and suffering.  There is no way around this; St. Augustine is right when he notes in his confessions that every new love contains “the seeds of fresh sorrows.”  Our most perceptive thinkers have known this all along, and actually, except for the most sociopathic personality, we ourselves know this only too well.  We feel it every time we put our hearts on the line.  C.S. Lewis perhaps best captures this tragic element in love with these unforgettable words of insight and warning:

Love anything, and hour heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping in 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; instead 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 [disturbances] of love is Hell.

To love is to suffer . . . and that’s probably why we generally don’t do it well.  Unwillingness to venture, plus a desire to be safe, holds us back from love.  To be sure, most of us do have a vision of what makes for a good life, and as believers we know that it involves growing in the love of God.  What we seem to lack, however, is the will to attain this good life of love. most of us prefer to skip over the pain and the discipline, to find some easy, off-the-shelf ways to sainthood.  Christian self-help spiritualities are a classic dodge of the real issues and manifestly do no produce maturity.  We do well to be reminded of the cost of shortcuts in Carl Jung’s penetrating statement, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”

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