I watched the movie “The Shadowlands” this past weekend. It chronicles part of the life of C.S. Lewis when he met and married and lost his wife Joy Gresham. When Joy knows she is going to die of cancer she tells Lewis not to shy away from or ignore the pain that is coming. She says, “The pain then is part of the happiness now.”
I have heard it said before that grief is the proof that we have loved deeply. I think that grief is not just the proof of love but an integral part of loving itself. One cannot find love without finding pain. Love opens the heart, makes it vulnerable, leaves it exposed. To love someone creates the risk of losing them, the pain of watching them suffer. To love invites the pain of separation, whether for months or the remainder of a lifetime. To love means watching those I love suffer and finding the strength not to turn away when it hurts so much it would be easier not to love. Sometimes it would be easier not to care, not to helplessly watch and feel love share the agony between my heart and theirs. But that is the essence of love—refusing to stop caring even when the heart is left screaming for relief.
Knowing this, is the happiness of loving now worth the pain later? Do I choose to love now even though I know it will hurt? I think about my future and the hope of loving a man. Is the privilege of loving him going to be worth the pain? Inevitably I will hurt him; he will hurt me. I will have to watch him suffer, watch my children suffer in one form or another. And chances are we will not leave this world together. We will be separated and the separation will rent one of our hearts with a pain I know I cannot fathom. Knowing all this, can I still choose to love? Should I?
The act of loving is the heart of life, community. If I do not love… I dare not consider the alternative. Though life with love is a life including pain, life without love… is it life? So many hearts try. They lock themselves away into isolation with cement walls built up around their hearts. They have tasted love and felt its pain and lacked the courage to love again. But what is left to them but their pain and isolation?
Pain is the beauty of love. It is the refiner’s fire that turns love into something stronger, deeper than the shallow affections of men. I ask, without pain, can love find life? So yes, I pray for the courage to love, though it presses thorns inside my heart. I pray for the courage to love my parents, my siblings, my friends, the family I one day hope to have, to enjoy the moments of happiness and to stay engaged in the moments of pain. I choose to watch when they suffer and not become immune. I choose to let their pain become my own, knowing very well there is nothing I can do to ease it but continually lay it before the throne of grace. This too is love, this pain. Perhaps the most beautiful part of love.