By Chris WittsThursday 12 Dec 2013Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
If you saw the movie,Shadowlands,as I did some years ago and can thoroughly recommend it,you would recall that Anthony Hopkins played C. S. Lewis,and you saw a very convincing portrayal of the uncalculated risks that we take if we let love into our lives. Lewis was the stereotype of the Oxford don,a confirmed bachelor until he was nearly sixty,brilliant scholar of an unusual subject-Medieval and Renaissance literature,better known as a popular apologist for Christianity,and particularly,one who could make a sound case for Christian faith. And then he met Joy Gresham. Joy,was an American writer and poet who had come to England to work for a few years,was a passionate,emotional person,who swept dry old Lewis off his feet,and made him fall head over heels in love like a schoolboy. He kept his feelings very much to himself,and he didn’t even know he was in love with Joy,or at least couldn’t bring himself to entertain the notion. She wanted to stay in England to pursue her writing career,but couldn’t because of the immigration laws. So Lewis decided that he would help her out by entering into a marriage of convenience,lending her his name so that she could legally stay and work in England. He kept telling himself that there was nothing but a business arrangement involved. But the business arrangement turned into something else- a profound love affair. But just as the springtime of romance was blooming,the winter of tragedy howled into their lives with an chilling blast of pain. Joy was stricken with an inoperable bone cancer. While she was in the hospital,Lewis began to discover just how deeply he loved this woman. In one of the most touching scenes in the movie,he decides to make the business arrangement a true marriage. And we saw how much a person will risk for love. Knowing that Joy has cancer,knowing that,short of a miracle,he is almost certainly going to lose her in a few months at best,knowing that she will not blame him if he puts his feelings on hold and keeps their relationship on the businesslike footing it’s been on,he chooses to accept the risk that always accompanies true love. He marries her in a Christian ceremony in the hospital room,with eyes open to the price in pain and grief he will inevitably have to pay for coming out of his academic ivory tower and opening his heart to love. It is a very moving story,and it highlights a special truth Love is always a risky business.
Maybe you already realize that when you love someone,there is the chance of misunderstanding or hurt. It can be very difficult to predict this thing called love,and what will happen. There are risks we each take. Let me put it this way. To really love someone means we become vulnerable to hurts,or the risk of losing that person. We have to learn to put the other person’s interests and needs ahead of our own. And that’s risky to open ourselves like that. No one likes pain,but when we truly love another,we open ourselves up to the risk of pain.
In John 12,we read of a lady named Mary of Bethany who suddenly turned up at a home where Jesus and his friends were enjoying a meal. Mary took a very expensive bottle of perfume and poured it on Jesus feet and she wiped his feet with her hair. One of the disciples,Judas,was outraged at such extravagant waste and condemned her for this act of love .. the value of the ointment Mary used was the equivalent of 300 days wages for a common day labourer,.. so you wouldn’t normally waste it by pouring it on the dusty feet of a houseguest,regardless of how good a friend he might be. Judas said – What a waste! He tries to cloak his real motives under a guise of pious concern for the poor. “What a shame this precious ointment was wasted like this,” he says hypocritically,”we could have sold it and fed a lot of poor people with the proceeds.” But Jesus won’t allow this self-serving criticism of what he recognizes as a pure act of love. “You always have the poor with you,Judas,” he says. “But you do not always have me. Mary knows this; she bought it to keep it for the day of my burial,and that’s why she’s done this beautiful thing.”(7-8)
So that day Mary throws caution to the winds,and doesn’t count the cost,and pours all of her heart’s love and all of her undying gratitude on the dusty feet of this friend who has given her such a great gift,the gift of her brother’s life. That was Lazarus,who Jesus had raised back to life. This kind of love is wasteful. It is extravagant. It’s love. It is self-giving to the highest degree. That’s what love is all about- rising above ourselves,beyond ourselves,forgetting about self .. The extravagance of love that Mary learned,and which we need to learn,comes when we realize that we have been loved extravagantly. “Herein is love,” says Paul,”while we were yet sinners,Christ died for us.”
Who can understand and plumb the mysteries of love like that? It’s not particularly easy to accept such extravagant love; we’d prefer to earn it,to deserve it,to merit it by our good behaviour or worthy character,by our virtuous life. But we can’t. We were loved extravagantly long before we came into this world. We could do nothing to deserve such love. We can only accept the fact that as Lady Julian of Norwich wrote so long ago,”Before ever God made us,he loved us. . . God’s love had no beginning; in this love we had our beginning.”