To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even 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. To love is to be vulnerable.

The Four Loves - C.S. Lewis (via brandonkcurtis)

One of Lewis’s most quoted passages, and for obvious reasons. Lewis here, however, is working out a thoughtful reaction to a passage in St. Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine, who had just lost a dear friend writes: Though left alone, he loses none dear to him; for all are dear in the one who cannot be lost.” (Book IV; xiv) Basically, to use Lewis’s paraphrase, “Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” 

To this, Lewis says that to love at all is to hurt, to lose, to experience pain. The alternative is to turn to stone. Lewis, unlike Augustine is not discouraging inordinate human love, but making a comment about the smallness of our love for God. “It is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinacy.” (p.122)

A great passage indeed. Love, and love hard. If you don’t love, you’ll turn to stone. It’s not that we love humans too much, however, but that we love God not great enough. 

Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.