I’ve been thinking about love lately – mostly about God’s immense love for me (and everyone) and the pathetically small amount of love I have for others. Even the love I do have is darkly stained with selfishness. I’m aware of how opportunistic I am in relationships – I play the game of affection, of support, so that I can get the same. Is there an ounce of disinterested love in my heart? I’m not sure.
Sometimes I become more aware of my selfish love (which, I suppose, is an oxymoron if you’re going by true 1 Cor. 13 terms) when I start pitying myself. I feel sad that I haven’t had anyone to talk to lately, that I feel like my friends are too busy for me or not interested enough to take initiative in our relationship. It seems like I can go for a while, like a day or something, loving and not asking for anything in return. But once again that desire wells up and gnaws at me, wanting to be stroked and pitied like an ugly bulgy-eyed dog.
I need to realize that this is part of human nature…and I’m not above it. At one point in The Great Divorce a character says this about earthly love: “[…] what we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved. In the main I loved you for my own sake: because I needed you.” Tough words to swallow, but true all the same. The amazing part is, that same character, made whole in Heaven, no longer needs anyone. She says that she is truly in love; in Love Himself and finds herself full and needing nothing. Oh, how I want that!
The Switchfoot song “Let That Be Enough” comes up on one of my Pandora stations often, and the first verse always gets me: “I wish I had what I needed/ to be on my own/ ’cause I feel so defeated/ and I’m feeling alone.”
But I also wonder…does this desire to be free from a need for love come from a desire to be so filled with the Love of God, or is it actually fueled by my American craving for utter autonomy? Brennan Manning quoted a poet in The Ragamuffin Gospel as saying, “The desire to feel loved is the last illusion: let it go and you will be free.” I want that so much…but what would happen if one did not need love? I guess I don’t trust myself. If one was able to let go of his need for love and was not at the same moment filled with love from an overflowing Source, he might become free to be an absolute terror. A cold, unfeeling, opportunistic person. He doesn’t need anybody, so he doesn’t help them or love them. Disturbingly similar to a socio/psychopath, he does what he wants with no regard for pending relational consequences. The ultimate American cowboy, if you will: free to ride out West with nothing to tie him down – not even a desire to be loved.
But, if one is free from this desire and at the same time filled with love for others from the True Source of all love…that’s when things can get interesting. That person, in forgetting himself, would constantly pour himself out for others. I imagine those who came in contact with his love would feel valued more than ever before, and would go away changed and with an increased capacity to love.
In The Great Divorce, every ghost trying to enter heaven must forget himself and give up his rights: the right to love or be loved, the right to his talents and intellect, the right to be right. It’s the idea that only the poor in spirit, those carrying absolutely nothing, can fit through the door of the Kingdom and enter into true Joy. Could it be that the desire to be loved is the last right that we lay down before we can truly say that we are poor, and thus run barefoot and free through the grass and the open doors to the Kingdom of God? Is it really the last illusion, the last trick mirror that we must shatter and step through to the wide open world we always dreamed of?