The Casting Dock

choosing love. and apples.

So, in our household CS Lewis is basically THE MAN.  It seems like every sentence of his non-fiction is so profoundly insightful that I could chew on it for days to fully digest all of its goodness and depth of meaning.  He is just an impressive man.  SO impressive, actually, that I have to literally remind myself not to idolize him.  In fact, the single most expensive thing we own is CS-related…a first edition, first UK printing of The Screwtape Letters, my husband’s all-time favorite book.  I consider rare books an investment of sorts (art junkies might see the parallel)…at least that’s what I tell myself when I think of the absurdly high percentage of our total net worth that this book encapsulates…but then again, I am the one who impulsively bought it for him so I can’t really complain. 

Anyyyyyway…if you have never read it, The Screwtape Letters is comprised of a fictional series of letters written from Screwtape, a senior-level devil, to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon entrusted with “securing the damnation of an ordinary young man.”  It is a fascinating and enlightening look at life and the patterns and behaviors we as humans often adopt, from a highly unconventional perspective–the devil’s. 

One thing CS talks about is the law of undulation, the notion that we as humans are in a state of continual change and therefore are constantly oscillating between troughs and peaks.  We have emotional ups and down in life in general, and more specifically in relationships, in work, in our spiritual quest, all of it.  Constant up and down.  I have been thinking about this as it pertains to love and my relationship with God.

Relationships 101 tells you that love is BOTH an emotion and a choice, a noun and a verb (it seems like soooo many people still haven’t picked up on this, favoring the former over the latter, and citing “falling out of love” as the reason to painfully end relationships…but that’s a whole other topic…).   I am SO thankful that God gave us human relationships as a paradigm through which to frame and comprehend our relationship with Him.  In the beginning of romantic relationships, you usually just can’t get enough of one another.  I remember the early days of Jerry and I dating–we were inseparable.  Sleep went out the window…along with classes (we were in college)…and while it was unhealthy and to the (short-term) detriment of other friendships, we just could. not. get. enough.  (and besides, I think there’s like a 3 month grace period for new relationships…new couples are always obnoxiously annoying, but extend that grace period and they usually come back to their senses and then try to make it up to those friends that got the shaft along the way.)

Love in those days was like 90% emotion–we just looooved being around each other, thought the other was perrrrrfect, and all those other crazy, irrational things you think at the beginning of a good relationship.  And while we are only in our third year of marriage and still very much in the honeymoon phase and still really feeling that love, the choice side of love occupies a larger percentage than it used to.  I have been faced with those days where I (selfishly) really don’t want to serve him and I have often been faced with those choices that involve “loving Jerry” on one side and “what I want” on the other.  Sometimes it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable to choose him, and I can’t say that I always do it.  In fact, I can’t even say that out of the times that I do choose him, I do it cheerfully.  I am a work in progress.  We all are.  But what I have learned in practice is, as Relationships 101 so simply says, love really is both an emotion and a choice.  And the days that I do choose to act in light of my commited choice of love, I am investing in the health of our longterm relationship.

I have been thinking about this as a parallel to how I love God.  I go through spiritual highs and lows very similar to a romantic relationship.  In the beginning I felt like I could breathe God in all day long.  It was just SO good.  And then there’s camp and other spiritual high experiences where you feel like you have tapped simultaneously into God and who you were made to be.  It’s exhilarating.  And it’s so easy to think that while I am “high” and really feeling an outpouring of love for God that I will always feel that strongly about loving God.  Which of course I don’t: the law of undulation at work.  Similarly, it’s so easy to feel when I am “down” that I will never feel the love of God again, that maybe I never really did, and what does it all mean anyway (yes, it can get dramatic…).  But the reality is, I am human.  I will have ups and downs with how I view God, just as I have emotional ups and downs with Jerry.  What matters is how I choose to respond to God when I feel down and distant.  Do I choose to still spend time with Him?  Do I choose to make Him a priority trusting that this is just a natural swing of human life and that God is still present and active?  Or do I act out of my emotion and cast him aside? 

I have really been convicted of this lately.  I would never just cast Jerry aside because I wasn’t feeling an outpouring of love for him.  I commited to him.  I commited to working at this relationship when it’s difficult.  And I knew coming in that love would be both an emotion and a choice so I never over-exaggerated when things swung up and a down a bit.  But somehow I have never transferred that same concept of love to God, someone who loves me infinitely more than Jerry does.  Instead I always felt like I needed to feel lovey-dovey towards God and that  emotion of love was my barometer, instead of recognizing that it’s an interplay between emotion and choice. And the reality (and irony for me) is, it’s generally through the process of choosing love that a relationship really deepens and strengthens, not simply through the emotion of love.  All this time my barometer has been off.

CS sums it up best (I told you he was THE man):

(and remember that the Enemy is really God since it’s from the devil’s perspective)

It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He (God) wants it to be…He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.  Do not be deceived, Wormwood.  Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys (pg40).

He still obeys.  Help me, Lord, to still obey when I feel distant, when I feel forsaken, when I simply don’t feel love for you. 

May I always delight in feeling love, but in its absence, may I always choose to love.  Thank you for loving me with an unwavering love, despite my undulation.

And now totally switching gears, here’s a few pictures from a recent apple picking outing…cause what’s a blog post without pictures (boring!!)…besides, it was getting a little heavy in here…OH, and I just remembered–my engagement ring actually exceeds the book on the cost spectrum…that makes me feel only slightly better…

1 comment

1 Rhonda { 10.22.10 at 4:09 am }

Brian is a big CS Lewis fan. In fact, so much so that he gave his son the middle name of Lewis in honor of him. I must confess that I have not read the book you referred to but I think I will give it a go. Everyone who truly “knows” God, can relate to what you wrote and we would be hard pressed to not feel conviction from it. (loved the pictures too!)

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