Even if it were granted that insurances against heart-break were our highest wisdom, does God Himself offer them? Apparently not. Christ comes at last to say, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
C.S. Lewis The Four Loves
Regret can stem from a couple of sources: you can say or do or believe something wrong or stupid, someone else can say or do something wrong or stupid, or it can be a bit of both.
Either way, shame, anger, hurt, and even bitterness result. You wish that whatever it was, no matter who did it, hadn’t happened at all. Any healing or forgiveness isn’t a one-time victory, but a daily battle, death, and resurrection. Why else would Our Lord have told us we must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven? I always thought he was referencing different offences from the same person, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve only had a narrow view of his words all along.
Oh, but wouldn’t it be easier to avoid the whole thing all together? Don’t mention that word, name, or memory again. Pretend it never existed in the first place, even the good, because to admit any of the good, is to allow the hurt to mean something, to realize you may have been duped, intentionally or not, or perhaps affections may have changed for whatever inexplicable reasons. Forgiveness is an even trickier thing if you feel you need validation from the other party (even if it is yourself). If they don’t see they did anything wrong, then what is the use in forgiving? For it seems as if you can’t fully say something happened until they themselves care. But then you’re book-ended by both a grudge and this strange need to feel permission from the other person to forgive: the freedom to first say, “You hurt me,” or even, “You still hurt me,” (and really get some of your own back) before you can move to the next step of release.
But if that permission never comes? If you are met with, not just denial, but even silence, however seemingly benign, but at its heart careless in the truest sense of the word? What then?
The fact of the matter, that all shall be well in the end, does little to help the day by day struggle. The regret, with the desire to prevent it from ever happening again, lodges like a rock in your heart. It’s heavy, it hurts, and it takes up space. You refuse to look people in the eye. You maintain a more business-casual approach to new people—and sometimes even old ones. Engaging and sociable people begin to look like a bad joke at best and your worst nightmare all over again at worst. You lower expectations. Everything has an angle. Since you were only functional, you now decide that you will be just that: functional, and only engaged in functional things. At least, that’s what you tell yourself, because, of course, you aren’t going to let it get you again, now are you? You’re a serious sort of person, quite clever, with no need of anyone else.
Yet this is nearly (if not exactly) what happened to the Little Prince when he left the vain flower because he did not really know yet how to love her. Of course she was vain. Of course she said cruel things. Of course she used him. Of course she manipulated him. But she was his flower. She perfumed his planet, and she was the only flower for him. She was naïve and ephemeral. But the prince didn’t know that. Not until he was far away. He thought he had been deceived by her beauty, by loving her and allowing himself to be used. He may have thought he’d been deceived into thinking she loved him too, when all she really wanted was water or a screen or a glass. (Which wasn’t really true.) He had done those things because he loved her and thought she loved him, but then, she didn’t seem to love him back.
But, in the end, he gave his life to be with that flower. He wasn’t even 100 percent sure he would make it, that it would count for anything. He risked for someone who had evidenced no love in return. Sound familiar?
God Himself created a beautiful world, filled it with people made in His image, and gave them the choice to reject Him. We were vain. We said cruel things. We used Him. He was grieved, it says in Genesis, that He had made us. He experienced regret. Only He knew how to love us. So He came to Earth and gave His life to be with us, with the risk of experiencing rejection all over again. He risked for people who had evidenced no love in return.
So, do we really need permission? Do we have to understand? When His grace permeates our lives, we follow His commands, and He commanded us to both love and forgive. He’s already taken care of the rest.
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to 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. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
C.S. Lewis The Four Loves
Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves. Harper Collins, 1960.
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