Monday, July 17, 2006

And I think I get some of it...

I've struggled with the idea of what love is for ages. Recently, I've been trying to get my head around the difference between state and feelings - we use the same words to describe both, but they are not the same.
So, this is the thing. Love, defined the Christian way as charity, always seems boring. It 's one of those things where I know it's a good thing and something I need to work towards, but I don't get why.
When I read The Four Loves by CS Lewis, I always have to force myself to finish the chapter on charity. With the other loves CS Lewis talks about, there is some pleasant payback. You don't have to work hard to receive them - you get those loves for just being yourself. But charity is a struggle. Charity is not just a warm fuzzy feeling - it is something I have to actively choose to do. It's hard and often thankless. Thomas Merton summed up that state I usually find myself in when he said (something like);
love given, selfishly received, diminishes the love given
(from No Man is an Island - I can't find my copy to get the exact quote)
It's also that I don't really see examples of this kind of love. Affection, eros, friendship all float around in the public sphere and real life - I can think of lots of examples. I can think of examples of people helping others (Buffy, Angel, Star Trek etc), but that's not quite it.
A couple of weekends ago, I went to Bright Lights. Last weekend, I went to some of Spirit in the City. I cannot describe the atmosphere other than to say that everyone cared. When other people spoke about their problems, my only concern was to help them as much as I could, however they needed it (by listening, talking, praying, whatever). It was not about my ego or wanting approval. Likewise, when I needed help I received it. I didn't have to worry about making a mountain out of a molehill, or being misunderstood or creating the wrong impression. I was accepted for who and what I was, no judgement. And I accepted others for who and what they were, not judgment. And, for some reason I couldn't explain, we were all happy and joyful and having fun.
We had catechesis from Bishop Bernard during Spirit in the City, and this just leaped out at me:
Love is an act of will where we put ourselves out for the good of the other.

And I realised that that was what was happening with the people at these events. We put ourselves out for the good of other people. This is charity.

And it isn't boring. It's soooooo much fun. It makes me feel relaxed and happy and enables me to be me. This is the payback for charity.

The problem is, that this is the easy bit - loving people who love you back. Possibly the most scary passage in the Gospels is this:

30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners', expecting to be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Lk 6: 30-35

2 comments:

1dayin7 said...

Read DEUS CARITAS EST!

louise said...

I'm on about page 7, but it's slow going at the moment.