I was mistaken when I said earlier this week that I felt like the storm was passing. I was lulled into thinking that a calm breeze in the air meant the worst was over. It seems that the storm has begun anew, but with increased intensity and with new forces at work. I feel as if I'm in the middle of a volcanic thunderstorm where the air is filled with acrid stench. It turns out there is sulphur in my heart. I have found myself filled with an intense hatred towards Meg, the intensity of which I have never felt before in my life. I am tempted to live in that hatred and to feed it and feel nothing but vitriol towards her. I want her to hurt as much as she has hurt me and I want to know that she's feeling that pain. I want her heart to be ripped open, just as mine was ripped open by her.
These feelings have taken me by surprise, but they shouldn't, should they? I am after all a mere man, a son of Adam, a fallen creature. The natural response of a man is to feel anger and hatred towards anyone who has harmed him. Up until now, I've been able to keep these feelings at bay, but now, all I feel is rage towards her. It's profound, and once again I'm confounded by how dramatically she has impacted my life. I'm angry all the more because of that. I just want to expunge her from my life and my memory, and I want her to know that's what I want to do. It's awful, isn't it? I think this could be the most profound struggle I will need to face in all of this: to love her anyway.
I told her a long time ago that love is a choice. Will I have the strength to fight these feelings and to love her, not with a romantic love, but with an agape type love? I don't want to have anything to do with that right now. I have written so many visceral and cutting emails in my mind and I'm so tempted to send them. But I can't, because I know it will serve no good purpose and any satisfaction I would feel at sending them would be illusory.
I've been thinking a lot about grace lately. In the past, I would have really beaten myself up for feeling like I do about Meg right now and telling myself that I need to stop those feelings at whatever the cost. Stifling is better than living in a moment of hatred, right? I'm not so convinced of that now. My growing understanding of grace is this: God KNOWS us, and knows how we are and knows our weaknesses and strengths. Grace to me is a God who says, "It's OK--I love you anyway." He of course says to us to go and sin no more, but this I know: God understands why I'm feeling hatred towards Meg right now. He doesn't excuse it or condone it, but he certainly understands it. As for me, I think it's part of the process of healing, and in some anthropological framework, I think I need to go through this phase, and work through it, and fight it, to wrestle with it. God is there, and understands better than anyone the profound pain and heartbreak I've felt over this. I still try to pray for Meg, even in the midst of these feelings of utter disgust I feel towards her. In the face of these awful feelings I have towards Meg, I'm trying to still love her. Lewis says that virtue, even attempted virtue, brings light. But in my current state, what I want to do is to scream at the top of my lungs and call her all sorts of vile names--and I've even done that in the car on the highway. I'm not proud of it, but God understands. And He forgives me. Where sin is, grace abounds. Thank God. I need to confess those feelings, and what I've said, and ask for his continued help to love her like he loves me.
I don't find it surprising that the temptation to feel such vitriol towards her happened this week. Sunday night I was praying in earnest for Meg, praying for her salvation, praying that any pain I feel from losing her could be used on her behalf. Talk about God's grace--that's a rare moment of seeing Meg through the eyes of Christ. It was moving and it brought me to tears.
It was the very next day that I was screaming at the top of my lungs, saying the worst things imaginable about her, things I could never have imagined myself saying in a million years. I was filled with rage and hatred like I've never experienced before in my life. It was as if someone was telling me all the ways in which she had hurt me, how she had rejected me and telling me that she was only to be hated. I don't think I should be surprised about that either.
There exists in all of us, I believe, that petulant child who wants the world to be exactly as we wish it, and when we don't get our way, we throw tantrums. The rage in my heart is just such a tantrum. I demand that she loves me, but if she won't, then screw her. I have found that unrequited love can produce the most intense feelings of hatred. I don't think there's an uglier thing than love turned to hatred. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis talks about love transformed into hatred. He would argue that it was never love in the first place, but just selfish desire springing from our needs.
Of course it's more complicated than that. It's never just one thing or the other, and in our human weaknesses and frailties our love for others will never be wholly pure, nor will our love for others be purely bad. I've striven to love Meg with a selfless love, but of course it's tainted by my own selfish desires and needs. Right now, that has reared its awful, ugly head and I see it for the monster it is.
As usual, Lewis provides great insight for me:
Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even to suffer, for God; Appreciative love says: "We give thanks to thee for thy great glory." Need-love says of a woman, "I cannot live without her"; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection--if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.
--The Four Loves, ch. 1
It's clear that what I'm feeling right now is motivated by "Need-love" and is rooted in my pride at being rejected by her and by desiring to have what she provided me. At other times, I have felt the others to a much stronger degree, but in the face of not having her, is it possible that my true feelings are really rearing their ugly head? Deep down, I do desire what is best for her, but that's a choice. And having that noble desire is something that I want to strive for. I want to be the kind of man that can love her even though she's rejected me, but that's very, very hard.
In the emails of my mind, I've wanted to tell her that I wish I'd never met her, or that my love for her was like pearls thrown to swine, and that if I'd known what I know now, that I would have walked away the first time I saw her. (The petulant child once again.)
It would seem that these words of Lewis were written for me:
If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities...
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be 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. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God's will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness.
--The Four Loves, ch. 6
I'm not interested in damnation, so I'm not going to keep my love in a coffin. But right now, my heart is a volcano erupting from the depths of my soul. Not a pretty sight. May God help me to love her. It's fucking hard.