When it comes to the subject of love everybody is an expert. Your best friend tells you, “Face it he’s not worth it.” You read magazine articles about “how to get the most satisfaction out of your relationship.” And the guy or girl sitting across the table ordering wine appears to only have one thing on his or her mind: “What’s in this for me?”
There often seem to be only two ways to go when the question of love/lust comes up. One is to resolve, like the disgruntled cartoon Emily, that “love bites” and forego what seems like an exercise in constant humiliation; the second is to play the game of trying to get what you need out of a relationship as long as you can…at least while things are still hot.
What if there was a third option? What if the opposite of lust was not celibacy after all? What if the secret GQ and Glamour don’t tell us is that love is not about “me” at all? I propose for you here, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that the opposite of lust is vulnerability .
Always my beloved
Two little stories that illustrate
my point…the first one is about a woman, married for many years to a brilliant retired professor, a woman who sits in her office and is interrupted by phone calls from him at least five times in a half hour. She answers each call with “yes, love”; her tone is a study in generosity and charity.
Her “beloved,” as she calls her husband, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease . Every day there is a little less of his memory and of his wonderful, attractive personality left. Her beloved is receding into a place where he will someday not know her. Yet he is and will always be her beloved.
Love in chains
The second story is about my aunt
and uncle, married in their mid-twenties, expecting their second baby. Political turmoil broke out in my country, and my uncle, a young idealistic intellectual, was taken away in the night. He was never charged with a crime and he was jailed as a political dissident. His young pregnant wife, with their first child in her arms, sat across a table from him on the rare occasions when she was allowed to visit.
The children grew; she procured special treats of food and smuggled them into the prison. He went on hunger strikes for human rights and began to go blind. They loved each other year after long year, often without being able to even touch each other’s hands; they persevered in that love. As his two daughters were becoming teenagers he was finally released. A year later their new baby brother was born, and their family began a life once more. <
As God loves
There was nothing “in this” for these lovers. They had gone so far past a spot where loving was only about “feeling good” that they were actually able to love as God loves. The opposite of lust , of possession, of using someone, is to make myself supremely vulnerable and open. To be willing to have no other desire than my beloved’s well being. Nothing else.
Jesus died on a cross to show us that the only way to truly love is to forget ourselves, our own safety, our own needs, our own agendas. The vulnerability of the cross is the key to enduring human love.
So, next time you are looking for advice on how to find or keep love, I recommend the real expert: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).
By the light of that kind of love, just about anything is possible.