Monday, July 28, 2008

The Four Loves: Sequel

When I told the Cobbler that I was reposting The Four Loves (in two parts) and mentioned how the things I wrote about romantic love amused me in hindsight--reading them, I cannot help thinking about the fact that he and I started courting all of twelve days later--he asked, "Are you going to post a sequel, then?"

Yes, I am. This sequel draws on Lewis' book, but not the chapter on eros. Instead I'd like to highlight the disctinction Lewis makes in the first chapter between need-love and gift-love. Gift-love, he says, seems more Godlike because God's love, after all, is purely a gift. He doesn't need us. Need-love is a very creaturely thing, and yet at the same time Lewis questions whether a human is really closer to God when his love is more gift-love than need-love. After all, need is the proper response of a creature to its Creator. We need God, plain and simple. Without Him we are nothing.

It wasn't until after the Cobbler started courting me that I had a thought about this. What if, I wondered, need is not an imperfection? I'd always assumed that feeling incomplete, feeling needy, was a symptom of the Fall. Only imperfect people need. Yet...Adam needed God just as much as I do.

Then something else occured to me. Adam needed Eve.

God looked upon this perfect, pre-Fall man, the pinnacle of His creation, and said, It is not good. Never before had He called something not good. Adam's aloneness was not a good, and therefore not a proper reflection of God who is all good. So God created Eve, and then all was good. Adam was complete.

It was so strange for me to think that needing another human being was a good, was the way things ought to be. So strange to think that the fact that I need the Cobbler is not a sign of weakness on my part. There is a lot of gift-love in my relationship with him, but from the beginning there was also need-love. I was incomplete. I was in a state that was not good. Then he came along, and now things are good.

The disctinction between need-love and gift-love is, in humans, something of a false dichotomy. With God there is pure gift-love. But with us the gift is never entirely free of need. We need to give of ourselves in love like we need to breathe. It is simply the way our souls are wired. If we don't love our souls die as surely as our bodies do when put in a room with no oxygen. Yet at the same time our need is a gift to the other--we say to them, "Yes, I need you, please love me," and they do, thus fulfilling their own need to give.

We are not meant to be alone. We could never learn how to love if we were alone. There is a certain absurdity in the idea of us giving ourselves to God, for we have nothing that He needs. There is no absurdity in us giving ourselves to another person, for we have something that they need; they, likewise, have something that we need. That is real love, to respond to the need of the other and accept the gift of the other. There is no shame in that, no brokenness. It is this community, this becoming one with the other, that God looked upon and said, It is very good.

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