The live, on camera murder of journalist Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward has once again given rise to feelings of how absolutely terrifying it is to love someone. News outlets have jumped on this story and found the most emotional angles, talking about how Ward’s fiancee is a producer at WDBJ and was watching as her future husband was gunned down on television. Parker was privately dating Chris Hurst, another reporter for the station. He made their relationship public after the shooting and described himself as “numb.”
Whenever these all-too-common shootings occur it makes me realize how absolutely vulnerable we all are. I’m not talking about physical vulnerability, but emotional vulnerability.
I found an interesting quote that goes “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.’” As I have grown up, the idea behind that quote has become more and more real to me. Through marriage to my beautiful wife, the birth of my lovely daughter, through growing closer to my family and friends, I have come to understand just how painful and terrifying love is. I think C.S. Lewis sums it up beautifully:
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 (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).
When we fall in love, we give ourself away. Our emotional stability, our happiness and sadness, joy and suffering, are now directly tied to another being that is outside of our control. Sure, I can help teach my daughter how to walk, and I can catch her when she falls, but sooner or later she is going to try to walk when neither my wife nor myself are looking and she’s going to fall. It’s out of my control. She’s going to go to school some day and I can’t tag along and stop her from being bullied. Once she learns to drive I can’t always be in the car with her. When my daughter grows up and leaves our home she will be taking a piece of me with her and that’s scary.
I think accepting that is a huge part of what it means to love. Yes, love is action, it is choosing to be there for someone even when you don’t want to be. However, love is also a choice to be ok with being incredibly vulnerable.
Think about how the apostles must have felt when Jesus went to the cross. To have put their lives completely into the hands of another and then to have that part of them ripped away. They had to, at that point, make a choice to continue on being vulnerable and wait. To embrace their pain and continue to love the Lord. I can’t imagine what that waiting felt like. There were probably all sorts of emotions flying around: sadness, guilt, anger – but this, of course, led to the glory of the resurrection. The realization and understanding that the joy of the resurrection is what they were created for must have been overwhelming for the apostles in that moment. It gave their suffering and pain purpose. That is where all of our pain, suffering and vulnerability is leading, if we allow it.
I think what I am trying to get at is that love is difficult. However, it is also entirely worth it. To use another C.S. Lewis quote:
Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).
To exclude love, and through that, the possibility of suffering, is to exclude life. As a Christian, I must live and love and suffer with hope and joy and a recognition of the resurrection. We must understand that Jesus, and the apostles and all Christians before us lived and loved and suffered greatly and they did so with the joy of the resurrection in their hearts, knowing that God was with them “even to the end of the age.” We must have that hope. I pray for the families of Alison and Adam, but I do so with the hope reflected in Revelation:
and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).