By Derick Cranston
The most beautiful love stories always end in tragedy: Romeo and Juliet commit suicide; the Titanic sinks and Jack sacrifices his life so that Rose may live; and in the 1970 movie “Love Story,” just when young love is blossoming, Oliver loses Jennifer to leukemia.
We know that love can be painful and the cause of much suffering. Even love that does not end in tragedy though, can grow stale over time. A love which started out in the burning fires of desire and passion can fade over time into a small flame. Sometimes that flame is extinguished all together. Ours is not a fairy tale world where the prince marries the maiden and they “live happily ever after.”
Yet we still love one another and enter into relationships. We are born with a hunger and desire to love. We can sense this in our heart of hearts and feel it in the marrow of our bones. We also experience different kinds of love throughout our lifetime such as the love of parents for their child, the love between an elderly married couple, or the love between close friends. Even then though we realize that if we live long enough we will inevitably have to experience the loss of a spouse, friends and, sometimes, even our children. The need to love, however, still remains. This is a natural part of the human condition. And therein lies the key. God is love, and we are created in the image of God. We have no choice but to love … and to eventually taste love’s bitter fruit.
Some may view this as a cruel joke by a sadistic God. What kind of God would create us to love, and yet have us experience the anguish and grief of loss? I believe the answer is found in what theologian Jurgen Moltmann called the “contradiction of the cross and resurrection.” Our personal cross lies in the anguish of separation from our loved ones. Christ experienced this on the cross when he cried out “My God, why have you abandoned me?” But the anguish of the cross leads to the glory of the resurrection. There is no other way to get to the resurrection, except through the pain and separation of the cross. There is no other way to experience the glory of love, except through the pain that love can and will produce in our lifetime.
We are put on this earth to learn how to love. We learn how to love with our bodies, our soul, and our spirit. This love produces relationships that will endure beyond our lifetime. Our heaven will be the number of lives we have touched during our short time here on earth. Ours indeed is not a faith based on fairy tales, but a faith grounded in hope: hope and faith that our love for others is ultimately resurrected. It is the final goal of love to experience divine communion with God, and to eternally experience the joy and love we shared with others. And this … is the most beautiful love story.
(Derick Cranston is youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He is going through diaconate formation and can be reached at email@example.com.)