Friday, June 21, 2013

Purchased with Pain

I was recently reading the book "He and I" and in it there is a passage in which God asks the author if she realizes that she has been purchased with His pain.  The idea may seem strange, even off-putting at first, but it didn't to me.  It immediately resonated with me and I thought I that was strange.

Purchased with pain.

Is such a thing possible?  When watching films, I often find myself rooting for the unrequited love.  I'm a sucker for the tragic underdog (see my post on Eponine).  If in the end he doesn't get the girl, I feel a bit cheated.  Why?

Well, I feel that the answer is best illustrated with the example of the splendid story of Cyrano de Bergerac.  Cyrano is a man in love with the fair Roxanne, who in turn is love with one Christian.  Cyrano pines for Roxanne and, in his way, pours out his love for her through the eloquent words, which he lends to Christian.  Though Cyrano burns with love for Roxanne, he dares not make it know.  For him, it is enough that Roxanne knows that she is loved deeply and ardently, even if she does not know the love is from him.

Christian also loves Roxanne but his words fail him.  He is content to use Cyrano's beautiful words to woo his love rather than risk losing the lady altogether.  When Christian and Cyrano are sent to the front lines of war, Christian frequently seeks out Cyrano to help pen a letter to properly express his love.  Cyrano however, is not content with that.  He daily sneaks across enemy lines to make sure that his love is never left without a new letter to read, which reassures her of his fidelity and love.  He signs Christian's name to these letters.  Once Christian becomes aware of this, he insists that Cyrano offers his own suit to Roxanne and that the truth be known.

Christian is not a bad man, nor a coward, nor a fool, nor an unattractive fellow, yet my heart is softened towards the plight of dear Cyrano.  Why?  Why is Cyrano's suit more worthy than Christian's?  Some might argue that Cyrano loves Roxanne more than Christian and I am inclined to agree with that, but I want to press for the answer of how do we measure that love?  How do we know that Cyrano's love is greater?

I put forth the idea that it is the amount of personal loss and suffering that Cyrano endures for the sake of Roxanne.  Christian wants to put himself on the line for the sake of his love.  He is fully prepared to make the truth known to her so that she may freely choose whom to love.  His untimely death robs him of this noble sacrifice and so the only one of the two suitors suffer for his love is Cyrano, who can't bring himself to tell Roxanne the truth even after Christian's passing, for both Christian and Roxanne's sake.

It was the great suffering of Cyrano's love that enshrines him in our hearts.  How much pain he bore for the sake of his love!  He bears it without complaint or thought for himself.   What heart can resist such love?  Has he not purchased his right to love and be loved through his great suffering?

Is it not also thus with Christ?  Who can resist such self-giving love?  It is disarming, intoxicating, alluring, moving, and overwhelming.   It is a love that asks only to love and be loved.  It is a love that seeks to bring about our perfect happiness.  It is a love that selflessly seeks to give us all we desire, at the deepest level, regardless of personal cost.  If you have not found this to be so, then I invite to seek Him out and experience that love.  It will transform your life in the most beautiful way.


Additional Comments
Here are some follow up thoughts in the form of a conversation with a friend of mine who we'll call "Wesley"

  • Wesley Nice, now I don't have to comment on your blog where everything I say will be visible for as long as blogger continues to exist.
    I have a question not addressed by your post, which seemed to simply point out that oftentimes love is purchased with suffe
    ring, without saying whether this lesson has any practical implications for loving.
    I am wondering mainly whether undergoing suffering to purchase someone's love is an appropriate course of action. It's a Romantic notion, of course, and the Romantic in me is fascinated, but as we know the Romantics were often excessive and disordered. It's also noble to suffer for one you love, but is it quite as noble when your intention is to purchase? Cyrano suffered, not intending to purchase love, but in fact solely for the sake of his beloved so that she would be literally in blissful ignorance of his feelings, if I'm not mistaken.
    And of course by "love" here we mean some kind of bond specifically between two friends, in addition to the charity which one should always work for between all people. (Christ didn't say "Don't have enemies," because friendship has to be mutual and if not everybody returns your love, that's not your fault; rather, He said "Love your enemies" so I think that's not exactly the kind of love we're talking about here, though related.)
    There, now I said it. Facebookers, please read her blog, it's quite good, and I don't like half of it half as well as it deserves.

  • Therese I suppose my response must be that insomuch as all love requires self-denial there cannot be true loving without suffering. That said, love is willing the good of the other as other, so "unhealthy" or dysfunctional suffering would not be good for the lover or the other. Such things require prudence and patience

  • Wesley I'm not sure that answered my basic question (other than the admonition to patience and prudence). You already know that I believe that suffering together is like cement to true friendship.
    What I'm wondering is, can the suffering be undertaken *in or
    der to* gain another's love, or is that a mistake? because I don't think that's what Cyrano does. I'm talking more of someone who makes sacrifices for someone else and hopes to be rewarded with their love, a sort of "winning" that person over through suffering (meriting their love, if you will). Somehow I can see that being a wrong approach, though it's a fascinating idea. I understand that you might not have meant to suggest this idea at all, but it occurred to me nonetheless.

  • Therese Ah, then my answer is no. I don't think so. Unless the one being loved also happens to be a sadist

  • Wesley LOL That bad, eh? I really missed it that time.

  • Therese In other words suffering for the sake of suffering is masochism. Even the saints advise against intentionally seeking out suffering. They simply say to accept it when it comes. Cyrano does not go out of his way to be miserable, but, believing that the thorns he bears will bring about the happiness of his love, embraces the misery with joy. In the same way, Christ did not put Himself on the cross and gave Judas and Pilate the free choice to not put him there, but knowing that it would come in order to bring about our salvation, He embraced it
  • Therese When we offer our sufferings for Christ, it is not our pain that He delights in but our willingness to die to self for the sake of drawing nearer to him. Indeed, when we feel the chafing of our crosses, Christ empathizes with us, He does not take pleasure in our distress.
  • Wesley In response to part of that: one scenario I was thinking of was: lover sees difficult thing that would make beloved happy; lover undergoes difficult thing and suffers in process, but not selflessly for the beloved but rather so that she (or he) will notice the sacrifice; lover thus purchases admiration and love, not because beloved enjoys the suffering but rather admires the sacrifice...but may or may not realize that it was done with the intention of that very result!
    In response to the part about Christ, what you said makes sense to me.

  • Therese  Yes, but that's where we get into willing the good of the other. Often, when we pursue things to "make others happy" for the sake of winning them over it turns out that we become rather undiscerning in what we suffer. This turns us into a yes-man, a doormat, and also a dead weight. It becomes manipulative and the object of our affections would perceive it, even if only subconsciously, at one point or another. It leads the object of love feeling claustrophobic and burdened.

    Wesley Exactly what I was looking for. Great analysis. Thanks!


Angelle Marie said...

Beautiful! Love you! :) Thanks for the challenge at the end.

David said...

I really love the Cyrano example! It's not at all what I was expecting when you told me about your upcoming post. Eponine, Cyrano... who's next? Clark Kent? :)

On a slightly different track than your friend Wesley, are you saying in this post that one's suffering for another actually adds up in some way until it reaches a kind of critical mass, at which point it can no longer be resisted or ignored? How does the economy of suffering work?

Or maybe it's a mystery.

Okay, sorry, no more leading questions. Say it in your own words. They're so much better.

Therese said...

I would say that some of that is a bit subjective. In other words, if the object of ones affection is, say, a psychopath, lacking in compassion, then it make take them a very long time, if ever, to be moved by the suffering of another. I would say too that true love appeals to most people - since we are all called to love and be loved. This being the case, selfless suffering can - not I said can, not always does - act as a sort of litmus test to the quality of love.

David said...

So what if you look at someone you think loves you, and ask yourself whether that person has ever selflessly suffered for you, and you realize the answer is no? (Which I think it often is. Hopefully I'm not too cynical here.) What does that really say about the quality of love? Simply that it's not that deep or mature yet, since you can't think of one instance of selfless suffering on that person's part? Would you think that maybe it is more an indicator of the presence of a deeper love than of its absence?

Also, if you can, please ask your optimistic friend Wesley why they were so satisfied with your last answer to their question. It doesn't look to me like you really answered Wesley's question, but they seemed to think you gave an excellent answer. Can suffering be undergone to win someone or can't it? You only said that often we become undiscerning, which turns us into a doormat and/or manipulator, so did you really mean it always does that, or would you say there are some situations where suffering in order to win someone's love is legitimate?