For those of us who have failed

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  ~  C. S. Lewis

Man, this quote gets to me. You might say it even changed me. I used to have a quick fix to any emotional let down. I shut down. And I shut out. I wouldn’t let anything (or anybody) in, and I wouldn’t let anything out—especially love.

I always thought if you allowed yourself to be vulnerable you made yourself weak. I always thought that if you never allowed yourself to be vulnerable you could never get hurt. But if you don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable, you can never love, not really—or be loved.

Love comes with a price. When you give it away, you risk opening yourself up so that others can see the real you underneath the surface. It’s impossible to love with abandon, without tearing down the walls, without making yourself vulnerable.

Loving someone or something unconditionally means you are give away your most valuable possession, your heart. You have to go into it knowing that your heart may be taken for granted. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t love behind a brick wall. You have stand in the open and risk being wounded.

I’ve always been a runner, not a fighter. In the past whenever my heart was wounded, I didn’t stick around, hoping it would be mended. I preferred a clandestine, under-the-radar rescue mission. I got in, got out, grabbing up the shattered pieces and disappearing, if not physically, emotionally.

But maybe retreat is not the best idea.

Maybe meeting and overcoming each obstacle head on by the most efficient method is the best way to approach the pain that comes with vulnerability. Maybe our scraped and bruised hearts (and egos) will eventually make us stronger so that we can be more useful to others.

It takes a strong person to love unconditionally, to love without expecting anything in return. I’m not just talking about romantic love. I’m talking about the love one has for family members, for friends and even for the craft of writing or the craft of creating music.

Can a person really love writing or creating music?  Maybe. It’s a different kind of love, if you can call it love. I don’t know what else you might call it, but if it’s not love, it’s almost a supernatural state that’s as close as you can get to love.

Those of us who are passionate about creating art pursue our passion as naturally as we breathe. When we write and allow others to read it, for example, we give away part of ourselves. We take a risk. When our writing doesn’t come across as we hoped that it might or if it doesn’t get the results we envisioned, our reflex instinct may be to shut down, to retreat, to give up.

But we’ve got to remind ourselves that the risk is worth the sacrifice. Today I had to be the bearer of bad news to members of my journalism staff. My wonderful, creative, amazing students unveiled their ideas—and I had to tell them that they could do better.

I despised the words as I was speaking them. I saw the hurt in their eyes. I recognized it. I’ve been there—recently and many, many times in the past. But I know something they don’t. I can see the potential they have locked away. I know that if they could see the potential that I see within them they wouldn’t be happy with mediocre either. Tomorrow my goal is to help them find their treasures. They may have to dig for them. Writing doesn’t always come easy. You have to work for the good stuff.

I just hope they aren’t so discouraged that they lose hope. I’ve been there too. I’ve wanted to give up and lock away my desire to write because the criticism was almost too tough for me to bear. Lewis’s words inspire me to think of what might happen should we choose to keep the words locked away in our hearts.

“But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” 

Of course, Lewis is talking about love. But for those of us who see writing as God’s gift to us, a talent we’ve been given, surely it is a sin for us to keep our writing locked away, hiding behind our selfish and cowardly attempts at remaining invulnerable. Let us consider the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:24-30).

 24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

 26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

 28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

It is my prayer that if you are a beginning writer, artist, songwriter or musician who is afraid to use the talent that God has given you, especially if your first attempts have not been perfect, that you will find the courage to walk by faith, to run the race, fight the fight, so that God can use your ability for His purpose.