Monday, November 03, 2008

Love and Pain — Why it Hurts to Care

My friend Steve Dowdle wrote this June of last year. His son, Peter, was born with a congenital heart defect. I appreciated Steve's insight and perspective, and thought it was worth sharing. Thanks Steve.

Love and Pain
Why It Hurts to Care

A deeper look at the way the two strongest emotions felt by humankind relate, and how it illuminates Christ’s role as Savior.

Nested in a bundle of wires, leads, and syringes, a baby—scarcely three weeks old—breaths labored, deep breaths. Within his tiny body, lengths of tubes and catheters reside, each designed to manipulate his vital functions enough to ensure another hour, at least, of life. His problem: A congenital heart defect known as tricuspid atresia, a malady in which the right ventricle of his heart didn’t form correctly. An emergency procedure has temporarily saved his life, inserting a necessary shunt into a pulmonary valve. Now he rests, his worried and fatigued parents standing by his plastic walled crib, watching powerlessly as machines assist his breathing and methodically drop medicines into his tiny veins.

Where is the greater drama? What is it that draws the eye to this particular scene? Is it the pathetic form enfolded in the plastic arms of an Intensive Care Unit? Or does it lie in the unseen weight that bares down on the distressed parents? What is it that transmits this image so forcefully?

The emotion most sought after—and, perhaps, most rarely reciprocated—is that of love. Such a powerful and enigmatic sentiment has been a permanent fixture in humanity throughout the millennia. Every form of expression—from modern “emo” songs to the surpassing poetry of Shakespeare—has attempted to contain what is felt for love, to somehow encapsulate and apprehend what is, essentially, an almost incomprehensible emotion.

Mothers most especially are cognizant of this capacity for loving. They put their own lives on hold—sometimes even approaching the valley of death in an attempt to bring another being to life—as they altruistically sacrifice self-interest and -comfort for the benefit of their progeny. The love of a mother is without peer.

It is this commiseration between sufferer and observer that lies at the heart of this hospital drama. Couched within the mother’s ability to love is an equal capacity to hurt and suffer—often vicariously—with her child. Indeed, it could be said that the depth of pain for one is a perfect reflection of the depth of love that is likewise felt for him or her.

What, then, of God, whose love for His children is fathomless? Indeed, it is known that we only “love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and that He “so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son” (John 3:16). What levels of love can He attain? And, conversely, what kind of commiseration and suffering does He feel when he looks upon us, His creations? Most pointedly: How did He feel when His Beloved Heir hung in agony upon the cross? Was this the cause for Christ’s heartrending question “Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

The answer to this lies in the quiet ruminations of the heart, and should, if nothing else, deepen one’s conviction of the divinity of Christ and His expiatory, emancipating mission to the Earth. For truly He is the reason that humanity can love at all, and in spite of it all.


Blogger Emily and Clay said...


2:46 PM, November 03, 2008  
Blogger Natalie said...

Truly powerful. Thank you for sharing this, Mike.

9:04 PM, November 05, 2008  

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