The Riddle of the Fox & the Grapes, Lost Love and the Power of Forgiveness

I lost a friend today. We had shared much, and genuinely loved one another. How many times have I lost a friend? Too many to count!
The temptation that always greets us, is to think differently about the person we once loved; to see them as sour grapes, defective, no longer worthy of us. They have offended our very deepest self! The have rejected us, or stood coldly by, or done something to offend us; whatever it is for you or me, inevitably we start to have bitter thoughts towards somebody who once made us feel wonderful.

This not helpful, nor is it accurate. 

The person you once loved is still the same person. If you are determined to love all men as Christ commands, and I say that again, determined…then forgiveness and grace, not bitterness has to be your only choice.

Jesus tells us to pray blessings upon our “enemies” and to do good to those who have hurt us. How much more should we then forgive and bless the ones we love? 

When we are hurting, it is so easy to fall into the trap of bitter thinking. The discipline of blessing and praying and speaking well of others is a powerful protection against the devastation that bitterness can bring into your life.

I’ll be working on it today and every day. I hope you do the same, because it is a great key to a happy life.

  

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Everest, lawlessness and the coldness of the Modern Heart

I have been thinking a lot about Everest lately, and its symbolism as the highest of loves. That got me looking at blogging sites for those who have an interest in climbing Everest.

It turns out the 2012 Everest climbing season had some colourful characters and inspiring stories that need to be told.

I was surprised to learn that 4 people died on the face of Everest that year. The ascent was limited to two brief windows of opportunity in mid and late May. Some seasoned Guides wisely pulled the plug on their clients very expensive dreams to make the summit, but of those remaining (200+), most took the first window, creating a traffic jam that caught some unprepared, running out of oxygen and energy, causing them to succumb to the seductive lure of a deathly, frozen sleep.  As four souls quietly perished, hundreds of other climbers pressed on, walking past the dying, unstoppable in their own ambitious goal to reach the summit. Only one, a young jewish boy, confident to become the youngest person ever to climb Everest, sacrificed his dream for his fellow man, a reformed New York street person, who originally had wanted to carry his bike to the top. Nadav Ben-Yehuda, only 300 meter away from the summit, abandoned his climb and carried Aydin Irmak back down to base camp.

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Read more about it here

Then I thought about it and I realised it’s true. Cold is the modern heart. Why? the answer is tied up in the Greek word anomia, meaning without God’s law, often translated “iniquity”, as it is in this verse in Matthew 24:12

and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will grow cold.

The word translated “love” is the Greek word “agape”, the mature, sacrificial kind of love. The kind of love that puts others before ourselves. The kind of love that Nadav displayed when he abandoned his own dreams to save another.

There is another scripture, 1 John 3:4, which says

..sin is anomia (lawlessness)

When society is ignorant of, or consciously abandons God’s laws, the result is cold love. Coldness brings hurt. Hurt leads to bitter sin and hatred, hatred breeds coldness and around we go again, cycle upon cycle, generation upon generation, till we arrive at where we are today. We have generations of sin and hurt and bitter hatred and pride parenting us, teaching us, overseeing us, marrying us… and hurt people do not allow themselves to love.

So how can we unravel this? Is it even possible? Is loving another like climbing Everest? Will our human frailty leave us cold and abandoned by her dangerous tempests? Will anyone rescue us when our most valiant attempts have failed? All I know is Everest has been scaled, and once that happened it became possible, and that inspired others to put themselves to the test. If Jesus is our Hillary, the Holy Spirit is Tenzing our guide, inspiring us to press on towards the summit of highest love.

I suppose the ultimate point of life is what road will you choose?  Will you seek to overcome the ruts in your psyche and learn to love and then continue to love though the world grows cold and selfish? Will you adopt the laws of love shown by the teachings and example of Jesus as the one who perfectly fulfilled the law, though the powers that be considered him anomia (a law breaker). Will you forgive your enemies, pray for them and as a lamb led to the slaughter, silently bear their sin and murderous rage, blessing them while they seek to tear you apart? Will you accept the laws of love even the the whole world rejects them?
Hear Nadav speak.

Four Kinds of Love; Eros, Agape, Phileo & Storge

The Greeks had four words to describe what we call love, Eros, (romantic love), Phileo, (enjoyment, fondness, friendship), Storge (family loyalty) and Agape (unconditional love with stick-ability). I like to think of them broadly as;

  1. Eros-A love felt particularly within the body (trembling excitement, elation, joy), coloured and underpinned by deep and beautiful procreative urges. C.S. Lewis distinguishes Eros from natural sexual urges and lusts, because Eros is a state of the heart and while it is intimately related to sex, sex can exist, and often does exist, without Eros enlivening it. It leads to children, family, joy and laughter. It is good and right, but it is usually not enough to sustain a relationship long term. Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love, usually between a man and woman, but can also be “platonic” and extend to deeply intimate friendships.  Socrates defined Eros as also working with the soul to recall knowledge of beauty, and in that capacity contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth;  While Eros can simply be an earthy thing, when Spirit infused and elevated to it’s true position, it speaks deeply of universal mysteries, and is usually most keenly expressed within the most sacred of all relationships, that between husband and wife. Eros suggests that even sensually-based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence.  The elevated buzz of Erotic love is said to naturally fade within a year of its beginning. Perhaps it is too exhausting and all consuming? Perhaps we just get lazy? I don’t necessarily think it has to fade at all, and part of the purpose of this blog is to record my thoughts and experiences on Eros and how we can nurture and maintain this beautiful love in our lives.
  2. Phileo- If Eros is the love of the body, Phileo is the love of the soul. It is easy love and affection, it is bent towards our natural tastes and preferences. It embodies culture and beliefs. It’s about the friendship you feel towards people like you, with the same interests, social graces, and style. In the scriptures, this kind of friendship love is used to describe many relationships. God is said to have this kind of love for us and Jesus. Jesus felt this kind of love for his disciples, parents felt it about their children and children to their parents. It is not then a shallow love, but rich in emotion and feeling, like when your heart beams towards your child when they do something wonderful. However it is also described as a negative shallow love, natural and exclusive and conditional. Phileo is soul love, and it’s strength and value will depend on the elevation of the soul of the bearer.
  3. Agape-Is more of a parental, mature, sacrificial kind of love. The Thayer Lexicon describes agape beautifully when it says “to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above all other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it.” In a way it is as idealistic as Eros, in that it is a crazy love that will not let go. Agape loves, usually at cost to the bearer. Agape puts the beloved first and sacrifices pride, self interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved. This is the love that God has for us which inspired him to sacrifice His son and for His son to obey and sacrifice himself. It is the kind of love we are commanded to have for one another. It is a love of supreme greatness.
  4. Storge-This is the love of community and family. Often dutiful, sometimes unfeeling, but very strong none the less. It is a natural, carnal love, but powerful enough to be a real hindrance to spiritual growth, especially when family and culture are holding you down. It is a love that may pull you towards a lesser path. 

Obviously, all of these loves work together, but only Agape is free from the error of our humanity. Agape is the glue that holds the other loves fast and gives us the wisdom and patience when the other loves fail. If we make it our goal to always be forgiving and merciful and believe in doing good to all men, and then do it, the other loves will stand, and your life will be full of the rich blessings of Phileo friendships and intimates of the sweetest and loveliest kind. You will stand up in the midst of your family and people and call them back to walk on pleasanter paths and on smoother highways. So, seek first the high love Agape; that sacrifices, forgives and believes; the love of Christ, freely given to those who ask and receive. Drink deeply of Christs love for you, for the fathers love for you, of this eternal and perfect love and all these other loves will be added unto you.

Climbing Everest; A symbol of highest love

Deep mysteries are best conveyed as symbols, and for a little while now I have thought of my lover as a yet unscaled Everest. He towers above all others in my affection and devotion, his love is magnificent, yet his tempests are terrifying and upon his slopes lie the frozen remains of those who sought, unsuccessfully to scale him. Those that have returned with their life carry wounds and disfigurements. I have had a lifetime of preparation for loving this man, but can’t for a moment rest on my laurels.

I have been a high altitude lover since I made a decision to put the words of Jesus into practice in my early 20’s, to love even my enemies, to pray for them and never allow myself the luxury of hatred, coldness and abandonment. I have a special attraction for the rejected and unloved, who are of course rejected and unloved because they are very difficult.  The hurt and wounded do all manner of self-defeating things in order to self protect. Winning their trust and having a good relationship with them requires great patience and much forgiveness. Loving them is painful, often cold and unrewarding, but bit by bit, one learns to embrace the pain, and allow God’s downy softness to warm, comfort and protect your heart. Every step of the way, when I could go on no more, something would break and his love would come flooding in to my soul and it was all worth the wait.

Loving a wounded man is not for the unprepared. I see myself as the Tenzing of love, a toughened Sherpa, acclimatised to the rigors of life where the air is thin. This blog is directly inspired by my love for him, and I have chosen to openly document the journey, even though, as you will see, the weaknesses of my life will also be revealed. I write songs and poems, and I thought I would add my Everest inspired ones here.

This was the first poem I wrote on the Everest theme, written in May 2011, 2 years into what had been a very difficult ascent into both glorious love and the coldest of rejections. Many who attempt to climb Everest have their hopes dashed by the unpredictable nature of high mountain weather. In my case, there were many failed attempts in ascending my Everest. Hopes were dashed, sometimes at the last moment, when victory seemed assured and I sullenly had to descend and await the next “season” of love to open for me. In the end, I did give up and let go of the dream, only to have it unexpectedly given back to me.

Everest (poem)

You are Everest.
Formidable.
Intimidating all
but the truly courageous,
Revealing secrets to
those determinedly devoted
And then cruelly
dashing their hopes.
Unpredictable, fooling even the wise
With the rapidly of your approaching ferocity

Those who would conquer you
Prepare
They consider the risks
and choose hardship
They burn with passion
Who can say why?
They’ve fallen in love?
They’ve something to prove?
Either way it defies logic
It cannot be denied
Only tested

And tested my love has been. This next song was started in September 2011 and finished recently.  Whether you love a difficult man or a whole man, there will be many times along the way where you have to choose love over pain. Work those forgiveness muscles and it will get easier. I love the play on the word Everest, which to me is ever rest, a mindset that I have to adopt when loving this man.

Everest (song)
Ain’t happy with what’s around here
Been searching for higher ground yeah
Everest, now I’ve spied ya
Everest, got ta climb ya

All my heart, all my soul, all my strength, all my all, are focused on you boy
I don’t  care what they say I am finding a way, I’m coming to you
Everest, now I’ve spied ya
Everest, gonna climb ya

Every soldier faces his battles
But the lover, winning’s what matters
Everest, now I’ve spied ya
Everest, got ta climb ya

All my heart, all my soul, all my strength, all my all, are focused on you boy
There’s a peace and I know I will find a way through I’m coming to you
Everest, now I’ve spied ya.
Everest, I’m gonna climb ya

It’s a long way and cold is your anger
You don’t open for every stranger
Everest, now I’ve spied ya.
Everest, I’m gonna climb ya

All my heart, all my soul, all my strength, all my all, are focused on you boy
One day You will see, you will to open to me,
And patient I wait yeah
Ever rest, Ever rest