I was around fourteen when I started writing about love. I wrote poetry of infatuation, odes to beauty and heartbreak. Phrases that I thought at that age summed up well all there was to know about love, that great muse of the Greeks, beauty and truth herself wrapped in pure sunlight and veiled by shimmering clouds. Until only a few years ago, my imagination of love and pure rapture of its presence gave me more delight than the real thing itself. The love of my mind was fierce and impervious to attack. It was kept as the secret source for hope, joy, happiness and resilience for those who knew its mysteries. The love of my mind was the love of the romantics, or what I thought I read in Shakespeare and all the writings of dead men that I placed firmly in the mental file of “Old Poetic Stuff.”
It is worth taking stock at various junctures in life of the progression one moves along, (not progress in the evolutionary sense, but intentional work one does in pursuing perfection) if only to mark the differences, and to view the imagined trajectory of ones inner growth along the spectrum.
This is that.
Note the wisdom of the maker. As I grew up, I started to understand the love one must have for their neighbour. In friendship and acquaintance, I learned dedication and loyalty, and the ferocity one may find in themselves at the degradation of their closest friends. As situations present themselves and you feel the inner heat flare inside yourself and the sense of justice and the war for peace you feel for those you care about you start to get your first inkling of what love looks like.
–Note: I am leaving out the different definitions or types of love for my purposes. Many have worked out their distinctions and I think could easily point out and categorize the ones I name here, I am not presently concerned with definitions, but of my personal interaction with these loves through the course of my short life. —
This first sense of love then paints itself into the picture I had held in my mind of perfect love. Love now had grit to it. It was taking form somehow, becoming alive. My heart had been given the premium fuel and I craved the passion that made me weak but made me feel somehow beyond powerful. The strength of genuine human connection.
If the love of friendship is the ideal fuel for the human heart, then romantic love that is forged into the steadfast love of lifelong marital commitment is a crude retrofit of parts bolted onto the heart of homo sapiens. You start with the inkling of a feeling, an understanding, that you and some other person have begun a journey toward something you both value but do not understand. Like any experiment all of the parts bolted together spew smoke and boiling hot oil outside and any operator must wear his goggles if he wishes not to be (as is often accused of those in love) stricken blind by the new firepower that backfires and spits and threatens to break through his rib cage. And if this were to continue forever the caged heart would break.
Now what I’ve found happens next is not a fearful thing. It is not a thing to bemoan. It is the engine of the heart being tempered and tweaked and optimized and made efficient. After a time those in love must calm themselves and the temperature must cool if they wish to be any good to the world at all. And the cooling is a sign that the heart of their love is running well, because the fights become less regular, there is more harmony, all of the parts of the two become one milled and engineered to exact specifications.
Those who know the truth of chosen love and experience it as I have and do, know that there is a regularly occurring reminder that to lose the other person would be the most horrific and degrading of amputations. “The two become one flesh” is not a euphemistic turn of phrase. As I have only known in nightmare the fear deep set in every man’s heart is to lose the one they love, stolen by the one I call the organ thief. To be awake in the operating room unable to speak and only scream in your own head “Please! You’ve taken my good leg! My strongest lung! The very best of all that I am…” And then to be forever a cripple, knowing that what you had thought, before you met the one you love, was complete health was only a half-man.
Despite the fear, it is a life of great peace. 3 years in and I already know I’m owed no more than this. No one has lived a life deserving of more than the joy I’ve already been given. And yet, in the divine wisdom of an infinite God, I received, a son.
What I’ve found since the birth of my son is that if marital love is a retrofit for the heart, then parental love is a completely new transformation. All the excess is cut out to make room for a heart that no young man suspected could beat beneath his chest.
I could never believe myself capable of the humility and servant-heartedness that is required to love an infant. It seemed a trick to find it in myself and when you deeply love your child it is a reward, even if not the end in itself. Somehow, all work and all sacrifice made for them seems like its own pleasure, and one has the sense that it is the baby who is doing you a favour. Or at least through him you can learn humility, gentleness, kindness, consideration, to be quiet and calm.
I’ve looked back and seen the way God has taught me through this ever expanding love for others, and the love itself was its own sort of lesson. Seeing that it has grown in me is proof of the hand of God growing and teaching and reproving in me. There is no other explanation, for I know that left to myself I would only crave chaos.
But here. My shaking hands with her smooth hands, his tiny hands held tight, I know at the bottom of this juggernaut heart that I have been made new.