By Carolyn Shields, living
Everything I've ever known about the theological virtues have been shattered this past year, and I'm curious if you've picked up on this theme in my past articles, For Ladies Only where we talk about hope, and O Ye of Little Faith, Why Did You Doubt where we go into faith, and really months ago I thought I already had my reflection on love. I just didn't want to share it because it scared me.
And that reflection aside, I then dwelled on fear for a while. How oftentimes we find ourselves fearing happiness and love, but really what we fear is the void if that which we yearned for and received is taken away. Because sometimes we feel something most when it's gone. Oscar Wilde, the most widely quoted man on tumblr these days, and whose house I was blessed to study in on Merrion Square, Dublin, once wrote, "Some things are more precious because they don't last long." The fear of happiness and love are common fears, but perhaps by practicing them we can restore our faith in our Holy.
But this month my world was rocked when I learned that everything I ever believed about love was a lie.
This summer I watched five of my closest girlfriends walk down the aisle to their Beloved, and you know what? Weddings can suck for the lonely and wanting. Because for us singles, we feel that hallowness within as we watch our favorite blushing bride make her way past her guests to the sole man waiting for her at the alter, and we cry for how beautiful she looks, for the memories we were blessed to have made with her, and for standing witness as she offers her life into his hands.
In one weekend alone, I had a rehearsal dinner, bridal shower, and a wedding. And sure, yeah, that makes my social life sound great, but the weekend before I spent two nights moongazing at the August Orb by myself, one of those nights lying in a cornfield and drinking Blue Moon. And it was around that time when I realized the truth. About love, I guess. I think it was when my good friend and I were praying the Litany of Humility, and that week we reflected on the line:
From the desire of being loved, deliver me oh God.
Love is never simple. And it may not come naturally. Why? Because I guess in a way it's supernatural. It penetrates the physical and immortal world. But there's been so many times when I've held a broken girlfriend and said, "You know what? One day a guy will come into our lives who won't make everything so complicated. Who won't put you through this. It will be natural and it will just happen."
But I think I was wrong. I think that perhaps the only time that love was simple was before the Fall. But when Eve put her heart before Adam's, love became a fight. But how beautifully rewarding it will be then to look back on these years of brutal patience, of waiting for him to be ready, of standing by if he chooses to pursue another woman...how much more wonderful it would be then to have to fight for your love, and all the more sweeter it will taste.
Love is gritty. It's messy and rough and similar to mercy, in that it's the willingness to enter into someone else's chaos, and yes Jordan Sparks, I also wonder why love has to feel like a battlefield. Love is, at its HEART, sacrificial. A seminarian once told me, crying nevertheless, that I need to wait for the right man and not settle for anyone, and that I deserve a man who would DIE for me. Why? He pointed angrily at the Crucifix hanging above him: "Because that man DID," he sobbed. And then I cried too. Because I want that. And how rare.
Womenfolk, our Holy literally went to hell and back out of love for us.
And that's as far as I've looked for my proof. That love isn't simple as I believed since a child. We need only look to the Cross to find Love at Its truest form, and there are nails and pegs drilled through flesh. That's how I know that true love can hurt. That's why I now believe that love is a total giving of yourself. Because our Holy IS Love. And as we make our vows on the marriage alter, we swear that only death will part us from our beloved. That we would rather put our mortal bodies between a bullet and his soul, that we would sacrifice ourselves for the other in the mirror and image of the divine corpse on the cross.
I think love was supposed to be simple, but I think life should be and can be, but not love. Because being with him can be easy. Of course it can be. Listening to my ipod with one earplug in each of our ears, and he's whistling the instrumental parts, and he is guiding the steering wheel with one hand, driving through the battlefields (ironic?) and drinking a bottled root beer with the other hand and laughing at how terrible that probably looks to passing drivers, and we're on this silly quest to find little horses as the sun is setting, and I think, "Yes. This is so simple."
But then I look into my heart, and I wonder if I have what it takes. To love. And maybe that's why our Holy keeps whispering, "Not yet, my love, not yet..."
One thing that I've learned through womenfolk, my brides and friends and readers alike: our feminine hearts are the most beautiful and exquisite creation, because despite this truth, their inherent nature is to leap into the battle. Love is so intrinsically beautiful, and love is pure, but I think every now and then it might be wise to view love as a sacrifice. But to be remembered: love is a virtue, and as in all virtues, it is to be practiced and (pause as I'm trying to find a reliable Catholic site to define virtue...what crap, must pull out my Catechism soon)...but virtues are gifts from God or something too, right? So God gives it to us...homework: someone read the Catechism and what it says about love and fill us in. ;)