Back in my March newsletter I alluded to the fact that my husband and I have recently survived the roughest spot of our eighteen-year married life. We marked number seventeen with a quiet dinner for two—two strangers halfheartedly trying to figure out a separation and wondering how we got to that point. Over the next ten months we traveled well down the road toward divorce before we were able to face the truth of what had gone wrong and what was required to right it.
The trip back might take as long as the trip out. But at least we’re headed in the right direction now.
In April our pastor gave a sermon about marriage. “The purpose of marriage isn’t to make us happy,” he said, “but to teach us how to be holy.” Selfless, patient, longsuffering. Pure in love. The way Jehovah loves Israel; the way Hosea loved Gomer; the way Christ loves the world.
In other words, there sure is a lot of suffering involved in loving another person.
“Loving any human being always involves a little bit of dying.” Ranier says to Vance in Afloat. At the time I wrote that line I was facing the truth of it and thinking that maybe I didn’t want to “die.” I wanted out of this love business. Not just marital love, but all kinds of love: loving friends, loving family, loving neighbors. And loving a complete stranger? Forget it. Some days it’s just so hard. Because true love isn’t about what I want, it’s about what someone else needs. And on many days it feels like I have nothing left to give.
Indecision wrestled within Vance. He wanted to stay in this perfect place, find his father and Zeke and all the other amazements he was so sure it contained. But he didn’t want to leave Danielle and Simeon to Tony’s whims. And he didn’t want to die again.
God gets this. Christ didn’t want to die either. But he did. For us. Even those of us who don’t love him back. Since the dawn of time he’s loved people whether or not they reciprocate—and even when he thought he couldn’t go through with it: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering] pass from me.”
Which makes the notion that “I have nothing left to give” just plain ridiculous. I can never be empty of love because the love of Christ is bottomless and borderless, and it’s for me. It’s for you. Not so we can hoard it, soak in it until we wrinkle, but so we can spread it around. Share the love. Really.
“Loving any human being always involves a little bit of dying,” Ranier says. “I hear it gets easier every time.”
Today, I’m going to test that idea and see if it’s true. I’ve got a hunch that it is.
What makes it hard or easy for you to love a fellow human?