Violent Love

Credit: Seamus Holman on Flickr via Creative Commons

Credit: Seamus Holman on Flickr via Creative Commons

When I was twelve years old I wrote my first poem. It was about a boy I fell in love with when I was in seventh grade. It was terrible. I still have it, and I cringe anytime I read it. But it was honest. Such was the case with most of my writing at that age. When I was fifteen I worked at my Grandpa’s restaurant, and I fell in love with a different boy who worked there (I fell in love a lot; still do). This time I wrote a personal manifesto. It was called “Love” and it was about my passion in life being love. All facets of love: familial, romantic, friendship, love of animals and of hobbies. Love of learning and of strangers. Some people were committed to music, or art, or politics, or football. I would be committed to love.

Turns out that’s a lot harder said than done. Really what I wanted was to fill my life with love. I was desperate for love of any kind. Giving love was a great way to gain love from others, so I learned to be a really good friend. Any role handed to me I could fill, or would die trying. I would be the best friend of every guy I knew, the go-to girl for a lot of the ladies, the social coordinator, the glue. See, in my mind love was as simple as unconditional acceptance, the absence of conflict, the unquestioned loyalty to another regardless of the rightness of their position. Never criticize. Never tell the truth if it will cause pain. Never judge, regardless of the self-destructive reality of someone’s choices. Just offer unquestioning support and affection and all should be right in the world of love.

Yet despite all the effort, the study, the practice, there remained a chasm within my spirit. It was the empty void of Nothing that Atreyu fought so hard to save us from, creeping out to swallow me. No amount of giving love ever resulted in enough love to shrink the need back down.

Until I met Jesus. I know; I roll my own eyes at statements like that. But it’s true. There’s something about a seeming bottomless well coming into contact with an infinitely flowing source that truly is supernatural. In Christ alone have I found love that satiates, that compels, that never runs dry (queue the church organ for hymn #143 – all rise). The only catch was that He would kill the sentimental idea I had of love. Crush it. Destroy it. There’s no room in the cosmos for both a sappy, blind, unconditional love and a fulfilling, constant, embracing love. And He has brought people into my life who love me with this grittier, harder, more compelling version of the thing.

Love involves pain, not as a default but because love wants the best for us and we are all prone to acts of self-destruction. Love slices through my deceptions, calling attention to those places I think are so secret and safe as they fester and burn with bitterness or rage. Love refuses to believe the lies I tell in thrashing attempts to perpetuate the carefully crafted image I strive to project. Love sees all of me, all the ugly realities and shameful secrets.

But love also sets me free from all those chains that bind me to self-hatred and shame. It persists in telling me I am beautiful and worthy of love when I scream at it to give up on me. When I succumb to the fatalistic belief that I am worthless, love shakes me until I snap out of the lethargy that giving up provides. Like Aslan slicing through the dragon scales to set Eustace free, love is the scoring blade that carves through my facade to liberate me. To be seen in all the bloody aftermath, washed in cleansing water, and yet gazed upon with wholehearted acceptance is the gift of real love. The candied version I believed in as a teen only makes us ill and sets decay loose in our teeth. Love that cleanses and sets us free prepares us to be fed as nourishment and strength to a world starving for something real. Starving for love.

Like sheaves of corn [love] gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant. And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast…But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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2 Comments

  1. Erica Hackman said,

    October 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    You truly have a gift with words Mandy…you should write a book ❤ I enjoy reading your blog entries 🙂


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