Michael Card, "Known By the Scars"
Why did it have to be a friend who chose to betray the Lord?
and why did he use a kiss to show them, that's not what a kiss is for?
Only a friend can betray a friend, a stranger has nothing to gain.
and only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.
Why did it have to be a thorny crown placed upon his head?
It should have been a royal one, made of jewels and gold instead.
It had to be a crown of thorns, because in this world that we live,
(for) all that would seek to love ~ a thorn is all the world has to give.
Why did it have to be a heavy cross he was made to bear?
and why did they nail His feet and hands; His love would have held him there.
It was a cross for on a cross, a thief was supposed to pay.
and Jesus had come into the world to steal every heart away.
Yes, Jesus had come into the world to steal every heart away.
(Note:: This began as an answer to a friend dealing with loss in one of life's big transitions. He asked if it was worth it to love knowing it may not continue here on earth or be properly returned. Suddenly I feel led to share my answer with those who read this page. I hadn't intended to do that when I wrote it.)
Love. brotherhood. friendship.
We hunger for love, each one of us. We long for it as for cool water in the hot, dry days of summer; as we long for covering warmth as those who shiver in a winter storm. We desire their regard daily, continually, as the necessary food of our hearts. We are a dry well that can never be filled, though it rained forever, unless we know the God who can supply our deepest need.
Even then, we remain social creatures who desire the brightness of our brother's countenance to lighten our own. In truth, this is in part because we rarely remain close enough to Christ to let His Grace wash our vessels and fill us up. The torrent pours but our cup is full of dirt - and it keeps moving away.
Thus the little water we have to pour into one another's lives remains small...and dirty.
Is our love enough to do any good? We know in our hearts we do not love as God loves, for He loves everyone. God loves those who do not attract us in any worldly way, and calls us to the same perfection. In all honesty, we rarely love someone who does not impress us in some way. We love souls who love us and live near us, we choose new attachments from those that please us, because one is pretty and another talented. We attach ourselves for reasons of vantage, though the advantage may be more for our own pleasure than worldly gain.
God will give us the grace to love purely, to love the unloved and seemingly unloveable, if we will but ask, if we will just hold our cup still long enough to accept His living water. He alone can cause us to grow in love. God can make it possible for you to love strongly a people you never saw before in your life, who would kill you as soon as look at you, living at the very antipodes of the Earth. Jesus does that every day.
There is an implicit belief that the loves we have will grow, if sown properly, and watered with good moments and kindness. In time, sincere affection should be strong enough to survive the heat of a quarrel or the drought of even a lengthy absence.
Sadly many loves do not grow so strongly. They are like bright wildflowers that bloom in the grass today, and are burned, straw dry, in the oven tomorrow.
We quickly find the inadequacies in the loves of our friends and relations when they move away, no longer need us, decide we weren't as 'cool' as they had thought before, or because they listened to an accusation or a prejudice (personal or bigotry-based) without asking God or us of its truth. Hey, maybe we deserved some or all of a negative comment, but they don't love us enough to go past it. Human loves are weak indeed.
When it is we who feel like letting go, we find comfort in sayings about 'phases,' 'moving on,' 'they weren't who I thought they were' etc
When it is we who are rejected, especially for light cause, these sound like the excuses they are. They make light of any attachment, shared camraderies or sacrifices. They are a mockery of true love. We look again and again into the journals of our minds for the evidence of what we thought we had, how we might have been fooled, for the moments we must have missed when affection was going astray, for the answers to know better next time how to avoid the pangs now spasming our inner world. I think we know that such efforts are futile. We will either love, and expect to hurt for it, or we will close our hearts.
So is love worth the pain?
Our love is never enough love, true, nor is it remotely as pure as LOVE who died for us, but knowing to our heart this very lack brings the believer the desire to surrender ourselves into a greater Love. This is part of the call you are feeling. God lets us see in brief flashes (we cannnot take more) how far we still are from Heaven's perfection, to feed a hunger within us to travel closer to Him. He lets us see glimpses of how dark the valley is, that we should wish to travel beyond it. What we suffer for love, causes us to grow in Christ.
Is friendship worth it? You, who have at least some idea how poorly mine has been returned sometimes, may give me some credit for knowing something of this. My answer remains yes, though I must look to the fulfilling of it first in God himself. I know exactly what you mean about losing people you saw daily when you are no longer physically present. Its rough when you still care, but they have moved on. You become a fond thought, a memory, a seed if you sowed that time for God.
A few years ago, when the net was new to me, I thought I'd found an answer to losing cool people. We could keep in touch everywhere! I momentarily forgot that the other methods available before the internet could have cured this too, if more had been willing. I continue to live by a word given when I was young "if you would have a true friend, be one." Let me tell you, it t'aint a sure-fire remedy to faithlessness, but it is the beginning! You won't make permanent friends unless you are the type to it stick through the ickies, the prickles, the lazies, & the "movings on." If you aren't sure of the purity of your affection for someone, place it on the altar repeatedly and it will be! I've been amazed how much affection I've regained for people who hurt me when I kept giving the matter to Jesus and kept praying for them. I'm pretty sure the grace in my heart that still loves where I feel no hope of return has come straight from God.
Oddly, pure love tends to be less popular than the 'sedimented' kind. People have a hard time accepting what they don't understand. They expect to understand the motivations of those around them. When yours are different, you may be ascribed wrong motives no matter what your heart. Keith Green once pointed out that people tend to think others are like themselves. Thus a person not in grace assumes that what you do would be for the reason they would do such a thing (which may be evil) and believers have been known to assume virtues in people who do not have them -based on what they think they see. (Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.)
This is why, though you were given the gift of miracles, though you spoke the language af all men and angels, though you gave as purely as you know how, you may be sure there will be those who think 'they know you better' than to think you could have been given a saint's heart. Sometimes its because they don't like the honesty that comes with that kind of love. You may be called on to witness to them or not say anything when you desperately want to. You may be told to care more where they are going and what will become of them than about 'fun times' or 'what they think of you.' You may be asked to let go, and pray at a distance. But in the end, that is freeing. Love that bound you, strengthened, purified, will set you free again.
Keep praying sincerely for those who have hurt you. Bless those that have cursed you. You will know Love ever better. He will love through you!
Remember ~ when we suffer for love, we share in Christ's work.
That is the life we are called to live. We are sent to keep sowing the good seed we are given into the lives of others, and not count on return. We do not know what field we were given. Some patches are gonna prove downright stony, some bits will flourish for just a brief while. It can be discouraging. All sowers become weary, my friend. Rest and be refreshed in the shade of the One who will never forget you.
You mentioned how much you'd like to talk to Tolkein about what he was writing about in heaven one day. This actually is the answer as to what lasts and what is worth doing. Heaven will remember what good we do. Jesus will make us much better than we can now dream. We WILL love purely. We will build forever. Our best friends and our best works will greet us when we go home. Hey, we'll have even more to share with new friends we never got to know here. This is part of the blessed hope!
The flash of light that illumines a day, goes away again each night, but returns and is not wasted. The growth and warmth it brings encourages all of us who live here below. The sun does what God has called it to do. Each son-life was made to glow but a little while until all is changed again eternally. Our part is to brighten the here and now, to warm others with such love as lives in our hearts. Our oil must be continually replenished in Christ's presence...or it will go out. God knows our failures, and so often has to make up even our lack to those who look to Him truly, daily. Yet Christ still has love and mercy for all who will accept His gifts, and even those who will try a little harder to do a little better...to walk in whatever light they have.
You are seeing the darkness we stumble through clearly, but dawn comes soon.
Then you will see everything.