Afraid to Love?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. 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. To love is to be vulnerable”—C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves.

For all of Lewis’s wisdom, this saying alone qualifies to be placed in the Holy Bible. I have not personally encountered a more poetic (and truthful!) description of what it means to love another human being. It is a certainty that love involves uncertainty. Love is something that just happens and it is something that is meaningful. But even with chance, love is not chance per se; love is a choice. Only in that casket or coffin could a person become so detached from society that he could, theoretically, never learn to love. For how could he? He surrounds himself with nobody he could love. For love is a risk, and that risk he does not want to pay.

It is a horrifically sad place to be. For the person feels as if to love would be some undeniable pain—but to not love would be a pain that is chronic, a pain untreatable by modern medicine. Love has always been a risk. To love someone else is to expose the very secrets of your own heart—it is to write letters that speak volumes about who you are. Love presupposes a certain amount of graceful fellowship. You cannot find love—or be loved—in isolation. Such a thing is impossible. And how many of us love to be isolated. We just find it amusing to push whoever it is away so that our hearts could remain safe, intact, and well-protected—but oh-so-cold. In fact, our hearts become irredeemable. No longer could we love another. For how could we cross the walls that we ourselves, with our own hands, have built up for so-called shelter and protection? Those walls are unbreakable. Such walls are built up of many things—we could surround ourselves with cute, little hobbies and wonderful little church groups. We could surround ourselves with armchair theology and lock our study room from the rest of the world. In fact, we could be saints and Christian missionaries while building those very (cold and cruel) “walls of protection.” Those walls are indestructible and impossible to leap over—even an assault such as an absolute siege would probably be of no benefit. How could one save someone who has already saved himself? (For he already built his walls, his temples, his coffins that shelter his unreachable heart.) Hardly does the person stop and think about what exactly it is that he is sheltering himself from. You are saving yourself from…? From what? Love? You build walls and destroy fellowship so that love may have no chance of occurring? Is that really the meaning to life? I think not. Love is essentially found in communion. And we establish that close association only by communicating with one another. Sharing our thoughts with one another over and over again. Those who are afraid to love have trouble with communicating. They have trouble with a lot of things; but those troubles, they are merely reflections of what truly lies at heart: the fear of love. No, not merely fear, but the necessity of being afraid of love—afraid to love and to be loved. But even here I am not correct, for they want to be loved. But who can love someone stuck in the cold of a coffin? Does one have access? It is like a lock that has no key—one who is afraid to love simply gives nobody access. They hide under platitudes and sulk when love is mentioned. For they will make up anything to make sure that their hearts are safe, secure, and impenetrable. Such is the state of those who are afraid of love. Their motto is: avoid all entanglements. Refuse to associate with people, refuse to allow yourself to be loved. Refuse to be yourself in public. In the open. Refuse to reveal the desires of your heart. Refuse. Refuse. Refuse.

And eventually the world does refuse: it refuses you. People stop believing in you. For how can they? For them, you no longer exist. You are dead. Remember that coffin you placed your cold and safe heart in? Sure, it was safe for eternity, but nobody could love it. Nobody could penetrate whatever secrets it contained. But nobody tried. You know why? Because people ceased to care about the one who ceased to care about them. It was an eye for an eye in the real world. Go ahead, lock yourself up. Hide your face from society and find comfort in hobbies. Those hobbies could be anything—they could be church-related or atheist-related, but so long as they keep you from loving and being loved, so long will God see them as sins. There is absolutely no use trying to fight love. It is pointless and it is futile. Love involves pain. It always had. It involves risks that are unavoidable. You could fall in love with me today and I could die from a massive heart attack tomorrow. Love involves uncertainty. It involves things that we wish hadn’t existed. But love comes prepackaged with things none of us dare talk about. But someone must. And Lewis has.

I have chosen a different path. It is a path, I think, worth walking upon. Every relationship is open to the idea of love, for me. For why should it be otherwise? You suffer your pain for a day or two, and eat a jar of chocolate ice cream to comfort yourself, but at least your heart remains open to love. It remains alive. It is like a garden that is blooming. And, ever so often, someone comes in and tills the ground. Though there is pain during the tilling, however, not to worry, the garden only increases in beauty. So it is with love, those moments of irrefutable pain and hurt are incomparable to the joy that love can potentially bring. There is no use in hiding. There is no use for me in keeping myself and my thoughts a secret. I prefer to be an open garden to the world. Come what may, so long as you enjoy the beauty within. Whatever beauty you may find, thank the tillers. Thank those who, unknowingly, have tilled my soils until they have become fertile enough to bring life to these exotic flowers.

I prefer not to lock myself up. I see no point in it. Along with C. S. Lewis, I think that those who are afraid of love are simply mistaken. I cannot point out their flaws, I can only set them an example. May the fruit from my own garden of love remain pure and satisfying. I seek no other option.

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