This is the heartbeat, the driver of my soul, to love at all is to be vulnerable. Many know this line from a larger quote of C.S. Lewis, but I wanted to reflect on this simple phrase especially considering today’s widely argued definition.
What is love? What is vulnerability? How can we participate in the love that we are made for? Without diving to the bottom of the ocean, I will try to wade through the waters into the depth of this phrase.
First, we must understand the concept of vulnerability. This word finds its root in the Latin word vulnerare which means to wound. When we leave ourselves in a position of vulnerability, it quite literally means we allow ourselves to be open for other persons or things to wound us. We are unprotected, exposed.
Why would we want to do this to ourselves? Why leave the comfort of protecting our hearts from the world, others, and ultimately, God?
In my own experience allowing myself to be vulnerable has felt like a sign of weakness, frailty, and helplessness. Very much like throwing myself into the deep end without first wading through the shallow waters.
Too much now in our generation we won’t even dip our toes into the kiddy pool for fear of commitment, closeness, and giving of ourselves in a way that is viewed as weak in the eyes of the world. We feel the need to control our “love” and our pleasures to be in a position of power over them, never allowing them to get the upper hand lest we submit ourselves to crazy acts of the will to choose them over other pleasures. We want it all, and the ability to control it all.
I have discovered in my own life and path that wanting it all and attaining the love I was made for are far from being two peas in a pod. I must leave my controlling desires and instead open my heart to vulnerability. This is what it has taught me:
In love, there must be sacrifice.
In the history of the world there have been many uses for the word ‘love’. Be it loving food, music, movies, ideas, etc. The definition I find to be the most fruitful is that to love is to will the good of another before your own. Now, putting this into practice is about as easy for us as climbing Mt. Everest with no preparation or adequate gear whatsoever. In other words, it is dang hard. Willing the good of someone else causes us first to have and understanding of what that good is. Then we must choose that good, even if we ourselves find no benefit in it. That is where sacrifice comes in. Sacrifice means to surrender, or to give up something for the sake of something else. If out of our own free will we are not prepared to surrender our own desires for the other, one must ask themselves if there is even love there at all.
Sacrifice requires vulnerability, opening oneself to be wounded.
The greatest sacrifice that has been revealed to me is one of an innocent man who surrendered his life and was subject to the most brutal form of murder the world has ever known. He opened himself up to be wounded for love of us. Even now, after thousands of years we participate in this sacrifice every Sunday. Unfortunately, distraction, selfishness, and human desires hold us back from recognizing that we are called to this very sacrifice in our own love. Opening ourselves to be wounded to love in the highest capacity that we are able. But if we cannot first open our hearts to Christ and be vulnerable with him, how can we possibly expect to imitate his love and radiate it to those in our loves?
There is always joy to be found in vulnerability.
In my opinion, the one of the greatest things we can accomplish as human beings is to find joy in suffering. Happiness is fleeting and situational, but joy is a deep knowledge of the Lord and promises that await us after life. We are made to live in this world, but not of this world. Our hearts yearn to be completed and in this yearning, we find ourselves deep in things that fail to satisfy us. We have not found joy. Instead we settle and search for happiness that leaves us emptier than when we first began. Let me be clear. Happiness is a grace to be enjoyed when it is ordered correctly, but joy is found in the lasting love of us for the Lord and the Lord for us. Truly knowing the heart of our Father and opening ourselves to His love no matter where we are in life requires us to be vulnerable. We must allow ourselves to be wounded so that we can find hope and comfort in the healing embrace of our Father. I will go so far as to say only when we first allow ourselves to be vulnerable and known to the Lord can we truly love others the way our hearts we designed to love them.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.