“I said I’d be your lover
You laughed at what I said
I lost my job forever
I was counted with the dead”
(You Have Loved Enough—Leonard Cohen)
In most pursuits—sports, writing, preaching, cutting out sugar, keeping my body in decent condition—I can count on discipline to come through for me. I have a finally honed and heeled will. Once I put my mind to something, and truly make a decision, I usually “succeed” in accomplishing what I set out to do. That’s not an entirely bad thing. It has served me well.
But when it comes to love, willpower doesn’t seem to cut it. I can’t will my heart to open. I can’t will myself to not get triggered when my wife says something that bugs the hell out of me. I can’t will myself to love the taxi driver who seems oblivious that he shares the road with other human beings. I can’t control the adrenaline that kicks in when I see a fight break out in hockey. (And until recently I wasn’t able to muster the willpower just to stop watching these barbaric displays of male testosterone).
It wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that I feel this profound sense that love is actually what my life is for. It’s all I want. It’s what I showed up for. And truthfully, I’ve always known this. Which is why I was sitting on the edge of my bed today feeling (yet once more) desperate. I CAN”T DO IT, I heard myself saying. And I realized that this is probably the whole point of the exercise.It’s my personal thorn-in-the-side. I’ve finally found the one thing that “I” actually can’t do, can’t make better, and can’t conquer. Sitting there with my face pathetically in my hands, I heard the words again, ” I can’t do it”. I’m meant to fail. It helps me understand what Fred Buechner meant by the title of one of his books—a reflection on the theology of the cross—The Magnificent Defeat.
I sat there, and looked around for a white flag. The best I could come up with was my sweaty underwear (post workout). I friggin’ give up, once and for all. No more strategies. No more books. No more anguished self-reflection. No more behaviour modification. No more believing that if only other people would change. Been there. Done that. G_d, Holy Spirit, brother Jesus, heavenly hosts of angels, Whomsoever has this portfolio, I surrender.
I swept the marble chambers,
But you sent me down below
You kept me from believing
Until you let me know:
That I am not the one who loves
It’s love that seizes me
When hatred with his package comes,
You forbid delivery
And when the hunger for your touch
Rises from the hunger,
You whisper, “you have loved enough,
Now let me be the lover”
The longest journey (for a man at least) is to one’s knees. The personality (ego) is a hodgepodge of biologically and culturally mediated impulses and concerns. The male personality is evolutionarily wired for battle, and after 200,000 years forged on the battlefields of life, my brain is wired to see the world through the eyes and heart of Attila the Hun. Only a fool could imagine that this “I” could, by force of will, take on these impulses and win. I have tried enough to love and failed magnificently. I pray for the grace to step aside, and by the power of all that is not me, let the Lover take over.