C.S. Lewis on the risk of love…

I’m reading “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis & enjoying it tremendously. His theory is that there are three “natural” loves: Affection, Friendship, and Eros… and that none of them can stand on their own because they’re all so fallible. And don’t I know it!  You might say I tend to feel things intensely, and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself wishing I didn’t have a heart to break.  He sort of got me with this passage, where St. Augustine (in Confessions) had drawn a moral after grieving over the death of his friend:

This is what comes, he says, of giving one’s heart to anything but God. All human being pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.  If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.

Of course this is excellent sense. Don’t put your goods in a leaky vessle. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of. […] Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful!  This might lead you to suffering.”

And I’m thinking, “Yes, thank you! Amen, brother! I just have to stop being so…” but that thought was interrupted by another:  No, you just have to keep going. So I kept reading.

[it makes sense] To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ.  If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.  I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less.

Oh. And there’s more:

There is no escape along the lines St. Augustine suggests. Nor along any other lines. There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. […] 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. 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 of love is Hell.

And a little bit more:

We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

So be it indeed. The fourth love, by the way, is Charity. Without it, the other three fail on their own and even fail with each other. And sometimes even when you’ve got all four together, the others can still bomb out on you. But Charity never fails, so I’m counting on it to help me through 🙂