In his work The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis brilliantly notes,
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.
I sat up when I saw the above quotation by C.S. Lewis, the prominent writer so many continue to quote, and this indeed is worth quoting. I sometimes wonder…. it must be a gift for a writer like C. S. Lewis to draw conclusions on pertinent themes like love. I have read some stuff through the years but I would not dare claim to be an authority.
What this brings to mind is something rather foolish that I have done. What is that? I now recall the days of buying books, books and more books. I was an avid reader. Those were the school days. Then came the days of adulthood, and this time my attention was turned to more serious, very serious stuff like one’s faith. I recall being brought to a book shop located within the grounds of a Catholic church. I walked down the rows of books, and every publication seemed to be crying out for my attention.
Read me! Read me!
My response then was to put the ones I was told were REALLY GOOD and REALLY WORTH READING in my basket, ready to take each copy home to be digested. I got a whole lot of the classics which I was not ready for, or rather I was too young in my spiritual life to read and comprehend. Fancy St John of the Cross for someone not even baptised, and Imitation of Christ, simply because I was told that St Therese used it daily. How impressionable!
I confess now that I did not get to read all the books. Some of them still sit, having collected dust for more than two decades, on my bookshelves. And I remember one that I read, a classic by St Theresa of Avila, but which I did not fully comprehend.
If I were to meet St Theresa of Avila today, in person and tell her what happened, I think she would first burst out laughing. She will probably laugh out loud, slap me on my shoulders in a friendly way and then show me sympathy. She would give me a very good teaching after the laughter.
St Theresa of Avila, pray for us!
What was it that went wrong? Surely it is linked to my quotation by C. S. Lewis. I had read, without guidance or discernment about particular friendships. I was wrong on many counts. Firstly, I am not a nun and the book by St Theresa was written for nuns. Secondly, I do not live in a community, and she was writing for nuns who might get too caught up with a favourite sister so and so.
What I did then was, subsequently, to keep everyone at arm’s length. No particular friendships. Grow strong in your spiritual life. No attachments. No show of feelings. Bear it. Grin. My god ma told me, what an ascetic you are!
Later on, I had to do a lot of unlearning. I had to learn to love again, to be open, to be vulnerable, to share and not think that my story beats all. . . In fact, I had to learn that God can be found in all things. I am to learn that God is to be loved above all, and that I am to love my neighbour as myself. A whole lot of new learning to do!
Today I am able to share this. I am able to laugh with you who read this. God helps those who love him with a sincere heart, and he will put right what we do out of sheer ignorance. I am none the worse for that short bout of keeping people out of my life. After all, I remain today very much in solitude. I have since also learnt that that is the way my introvert personality thrives on, and that silence and solitude can be good friends. Praise the Lord!