from an article originally posted July 21, 2014...
My heart has been stirred once again by a book I read before Jason asked me to be his. I read it so many years ago when I was filled with ideas of what love should be, imaginings of marriage, and wistful daydreams of love. I read the love story of Sheldon and Davy and grew deep expectations and hope for what my love story would one day become. Now, as I return to the story new nearly 20 years later, I see how I have known love like theirs in many ways, but in different ways. And as I read his words, I am often thinking of my own love for Jesus, my Jason, and my littles. The love story that Jesus has developed in me.
Here is the paragraph that takes my breath away:
He wished for a moment that Lewis (C.S. Lewis) were here with him, just for an hour, here at Glennmerle sitting on the bridge above the stream. Lewis, he thought, would like Glenmerle; it was not, perhaps, so different from the house of the Wardrobe that led to Narnia. And Lewis understood so well, somehow the nature of loss. Although he was so far away across the sea, Lewis had been his mainstay in this half-year of sounding the depths of grief. He it was who had said that Davy’s death was a severe mercy. A severe mercy—the phrase haunted him: a mercy that was as severe as death, a death that was a merciful as love. For it had been death in love, not death of love. Love can die in many ways, most of them far more terrible than physical death; and if all natural love must die in one way or another, Davy’s death—he and she in love—was the death that hinted at springtime and rebirth. Sitting there on the rough wood of the bridge, he remembered his absolute knowing—something beyond faith or belief—in the moments after her death, in that suddenly empty room, that she still was. She had not ceased with that last light breath. She and he would meet again: ‘And God be the rest!’
~Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy
This was an earth shattering paragraph the first time I read it, but now, now this is simply stunning and convicting in a new corner of my heart. For it had been death in love, not death of love. Love can die in many ways, most of them far more terrible than physical death. Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, these words are so beautiful and so painful.
Isn’t it also true of our relationship with Jesus. We can move away from his love in small ways when we face disappointments. We can become cold, indifferent, removed, but that is never the posture of Jesus towards our fickle hearts. He demonstrates abiding love. He moves, moves, moves gently toward us in love each moment, even when our posture towards him is cold.
Think on your own love stories today. Your love, Jesus, your children, your community. Where is your posture? Are you moving towards them in love for love? Or are you coldly giving your back to the ones nearest to your heart? The moving is subtle sometimes. But we know our hearts, don’t we? We know the direction we are moving in this day.
I want my death to be a death in love. A death in GIANT love with my guy, my children, Jesus, my community. That love will leave them full, warm, different. I want to spend the lavish love on the hearts that surround me. As it is lavished, poured, restored into my heart—I want to spend it all in big love. Wouldn’t that be the best dying? Dying in love rather than the death of love. I know people who are being asked to open their hands wide in impossible ways to family members they love so big. And the stunning beauty of death in love is truly like none other. It is no less painful, but it’s a beautiful pain to behold. Jesus is the only one that can demonstrate that love. And then we get to pour out that love on those around us.
So your love? Are you letting giant love pour into you today? Are you keeping it all for yourself or are you extending that big love to another? How is love hard? How is moving toward love painful at times? Ask yourself honestly—would moving towards another (perhaps even a hard relationship) in love be something you would ever regret? Even if that love isn’t returned? How can you begin to humbly move toward one you may have moved away from in disappointment? How would repentance make your love more lovely today? How could your words be more gentle, more loving, more intentional in moving in love today? Repent if you have allowed death of love into your home, your heart, your life? Ask forgiveness, and the humble grace to move towards love. Towards kindness in love. Death of love is a terrible death to die.
With the limit on my days, on all of our days, why do we choose to live with a hard heart? Why do we allow distance to creep in knowingly and unknowingly? Ask for the strength today to move past heartache, disappointment in how your story is being written, and live your moments moving in love. How do you feel you are being asked to resist death of love today? Do you see how it’s bigger than you?
Do you see how you need a loving God to help you? I will leave you with the choice that Sheldon saw before him, that I think is before us all if we choose a soft heart that moves in love... Here are his beautifully painful, honest words.
Me too Sheldon, me too....
What I thought was love 20 years ago has been beautifully reshaped in hard, grace, suffering, but the heights and the depths—yes. It has all been worth it.