Saturday, November 30, 2013

C.S. Lewis' "The Four Loves" / 1

Recently I read C.S.Lewis' "The Four Loves".  There are some really marvelous insights and passages in the treatise.  I will  begin reviewing it but doing some quoting.

In discussing "Affection" he deals with some potential problems with the emotion.  Affection turned into "god" will turn sour on us.

"But secondly, the comment in its own language admits the very thing I am trying to say.  Affection produces happiness if--and only if--there is common sense and give and take and 'decency'.  In other words, only if something more, and other, than Affection is added.  The mere feeling is not enough.  You need 'common sense', that is, reason.  You need 'give and take';  that is, you need justice, continually stimulating mere Affection when it fades and restraining it when it forgets or would defy the art of love.  You need 'decency'.  There is no disguising the fact that this means goodness;  patience, self-denial, humility, and the continual intervention of a far higher sort of love than Affection, in itself, can ever be.  That is the whole point.  If we try to live by Affection alone, affection will 'go bad on us'.

How bad, I believe we seldom recognize.  Can Mrs fidget really have been quite unaware of the countless frustrations and miseries she inflicted on her family?  It passes belief.  she knew--of course she knew--that it spoiled your whole evening to know that when you came home you would find her uselessly, accusingly, 'sitting up for you'.  She continued all these practices because if she had dropped them she would have been faced with the fact that she was determined not to see;  would have known that she was not necessary.  That is the first motive.  then too, the very laboriousness of her life silenced her secret doubts as to the quality of her love.  the more her feet burned and her back ached, the better, for this pain whispered in her ear 'How much I must love them if I do all this!'  that is the second motive.  but I think there is a lower depth.  the unappreciativeness of the others, those terrible, wounding words--anything will 'wound' a Mrs. Fidget--in which they begged her to send the washing out, enabled her to feel ill-used, therefore, to have a continual grievance, to enjoy the pleasures of resentment.  If anyone says he does not know those pleasures, he is a liar or a saint.  it is true that they are pleasures only to those who hate.  But then a love like Mrs fidget's contains a good deal of hatred.  It was of erotic love that the Roman poet said, 'I love and hate,' but other kinds of love admit the same mixture.  They carry in them the seeds of hatred.  If Affection is made the absolute sovereign of a human life the seeds will germinate.  Love, having become a god, becomes a demon."  (p. 67,68, Harper Collins)

I have had many blessedly warm relationships in my life, but I have experienced one that is like this Affection gone self-centered and complaining.  This person recently said:  "All the things I have accomplished I have done for the love of my children."  True enough, perhaps.  But now, no one is good enough.   I am tempted toward this also, in getting older, perhaps uglier, perhaps more useless, perhaps ignored, perhaps more easily injured...  too much time to think, the devil's workshop.  But this time can also be used differently.  We need to look up and out.  Do whatever useful things and enjoyable things we can find to do, and not expect "Affection" in return.  Just do them and leave the rest to God.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Woody Allen and my cat

Now that Breaking Bad is over, I have to watch other shows.  Last I tried a Woody Allen biography, on Netflix.  The first hour was fairly interesting, detailing early life, Brooklyn before car traffic, the cinemas, the first marriage... but it sort of drooped off after that with the analysis of every show he made and the virtues of every star involved.   But this struck me:  when he was five years old, he realized that everyone has to die.  This realization put a damper on everything for him at the time, or maybe always. -- What is any pleasure? -- You are going to die. -- How can you enjoy anything? -- You are going to die.

It makes me wonder when in life I first felt similarly severely chastened by a fact or a thought.  I am sure that  I was older than five when first something seemed extremely poignant to me.  I think it was when my cat died, speaking of death.  Maybe this connects.  She had eaten some rat poison in the neighbors yard and was bleeding, dying ever so slowly.  My father soon dispatched her, in the basement, saving us all the misery.  But what I could not forget was that even though the cat was suffering, she would still purr when we stroked her.  She could lay dying and still purr. It seemed astounding to me.

We loved the cat, and it was also, in her feline way, attached to us.  My hand was still an instrument of comfort and petting.  All my life I have wanted grace in suffering.  As in the Paul Gerhardt songs, we submit to God's leading and gracious will.  We will not curse God, like Job's wife suggested to him.  Though he slay me, I will trust him.  This is a gift.  I will not be able to do it on my own.  I have always wanted a "good" death, as they say.

When our son died, my husband said:  this is the kind of day we have been going to church for all this time.  Someone said that this was about the best reply to tragedy that they have ever heard.  Indeed, it was a good reply.  We can enjoy life and still be ready to die, Woody.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Look to the Cross

My sin, oh, the joy of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Love Life Conference

I listened to two men speak about abortion today.

One was very rational laying out the SLED acronym.  The fetus is fully human.  It only differs from the rest of humanity in "S", size, "L", Level of Development, "E", environment, and "D", dependency. -- If you would not kill just any toddler, you can't just kill any pre-born.

The unborn is your neighbor whom you must defend.

The other man told his own story of abortion.  And of another death, that put him into court for three years.  He told me of this only afterward, when we talked in the hallway.   He sounded like a very good pastor.  I was very glad to meet him.

I am a little weepy after all that.  Our losses have us so much in their grip.  Death lays his icy hand on our lives and crushes our little hearts under his power.  And the guilt, the resignation, the depression, the denial, the unexpected shocks and flashbacks, the hollowness, they all gnaw relentlessly at our courage and hope.

He is a pastor and a pastor's pastor, initiating various programs.  But he is not a Lutheran.  I told him about the age-old practice of confession and absolution, about rejoicing continually in your baptism.  He said that men don't share.  I said, why not?  Because, they just don't.  I said, why not.  I said Christian men confess their sins to one another.  They have father confessors.  They make a practice of it.  We are not superchristians.  The love of God makes me positively giddy.  Satan can have all his crap and keep it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Meeting new people / thinking about old friends

The last several years have represented a complete collapse of my old world. That is how it seemed and felt.  The world of the last thirty years or so.  The world of new marriage and family, of business, management, staffing, music lessons, living in the country, being with young folk, having everyone drive out to get their teeth fixed and then coming over for coffee or dinner.  It all stopped at once.  And Stefan died.  All of it at once.  And the dog died, too.  I wasn't going to mention that.  There were not many who walked with me through this valley of the shadow of death.  Not many, AT ALL.

New things start.
New people enter your life, as you branch out again.
You try yourself at different things.
A slow spring.  A slow resurrection.
Stops and starts, like an endless April.
Not everything works.
Somethings don't work at all, anymore.

I was thinking about how in the new situations, it turned out that it was Christian people who provided the encouragement, the respect, the care, the basic human decency and respect I needed.  But not only.  There are others.  Christians have a better sense of community than many others.  There is a desire to include where often you meet only exclusion.  There were also some very bad people.  And some who like to confuse, and I don't know if they are good or bad.  They do it on purpose.

They think it is a useful game.  --  It does not feel like it to me.  Intellectually, it could be rationalized, maybe, but emotionally, I can't rationalize it.  It is supposed to be humanistic but it does not seem human or humane.

When I think back over my life and decide which have been the most wonderful people to be with, I have to say, hands-down, it was the fellow peer-counselors at the Pregnancy Crisis Center. They stand out for listening, for praying, for holding your hand and being Christ to you.  They heard serious stories and they gave serious ear and they prayed with you about your concerns--here and now, and out loud.  They shed serious tears with those who were despairing.  They shared the word and they offered help.  They have been my favorite people, ever.

Bethesda Outreach Counselling image