Wednesday, October 26, 2011

only Love

This is something I have been meaning to write for a long while.  I suppose I've been gathering the courage, because it is a topic so vast, so broad, so unfathomably deep that I have trouble understanding it.  And yet, I so desperately want to be able to grasp it.  And what is this thing?


I believe it was in August that I read Till We Have Faces, a myth retold by that mastermind hero of mine, C.S. Lewis.  Whenever I think about this concept of love, something draws my mind back to this book.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: Lewis was a genius.  I devoured this book cover to cover, but it's one of those things that you have to take time to process afterward.  I'm certain I didn't understand half of the message that Lewis put in there--it's a confusing but riveting tale.

"A good book should leave you…slightly exhausted at the end.  You live several lives while reading it."  -William Styron

To start, let me summarize the myth it centers around.  In ancient Greek tradition, Psyche was a mortal woman who was so beautiful that Aphrodite (the goddess of love) was jealous of her.  In an attempt to get rid of her, Aphrodite sends her son Cupid (the god of love) to do the dirty work, but Cupid falls in love with Psyche, takes her to a hidden valley, and there only comes to her in the darkness of night so that she does not see his true form as a god.

Meanwhile, Psyche's two jealous sisters come visit her, convincing her that her lover might be a horrific beast.  They persuade Psyche to light a candle in the night, but when she does, Cupid awakens, enraged.  He punishes the sisters and leaves Psyche, who is forced to flee to her enemy, Aphrodite herself, for help.  Aphrodite sends Psyche on a number of impossible missions, each of which Psyche miraculously completes.  In the end, Cupid returns for Psyche and she is granted immortality, becoming a goddess.

Till We Have Faces tells the story from the perspective of Orual, one of Psyche's sisters.  Ever since she was a little girl, Orual has lived knowing three things for certain: Psyche was beautiful, she was ugly, and she loved Psyche to death.  Literally, to death.  Orual's love for Psyche is desperate, reckless, and mostly, selfish.  When Orual persuades Psyche to undermine Cupid, it is not out of spite.  It is out of her dangerously great love that wishes to protect Psyche, and her dangerously great fear that some brute would seek to destroy her sister.  Plus, Orual cannot see the beautiful valley, the lovely place where Cupid has brought Psyche--she sees only a desolate, lonely place inhabited by her hallucinating sister.

Orual is punished.  She becomes hardened, bitter.  She becomes queen, and yet she is so unfulfilled.  She never sees Psyche again, only later discovering that she has become a goddess and that Orual's own name has lived on in infamy.  And through it all, she is possessed by a confusingly massive amount of love for Psyche.  At least, she calls it love.

But I suppose that is where the book ends and the imagination begins.  Orual never did anything for or toward Psyche except what she meant to be for her good.  But Orual's love was selfish--so, so selfish.  She did not love Psyche for love's sake; she loved to be loved in return.  She wanted to get some sort of reward from her devotion, and in the end, it led them both to ruin.  And that just makes me wonder: where is the fine line between selfish and unselfish love?

"Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness."  -C.S. Lewis

More stern?  Stern.  Hmm.  As in serious, Lewis, is that what you're trying to tell me?  Because yes, love is more serious than kindness, than simply attempting to do good to someone.  Love is a commitment, an act.  And like anything else, messing up is all too easy.  Acting out of line comes much too naturally.

And more splendid?  Yes.  Oh yes.  Especially in His love.

"God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love."  -C.S. Lewis

The other thing that strikes me is Orual's need for love.  She goes about loving and trying to find love in all the wrong ways, and they ultimately fail her.  She seeks for something greater than herself so desperately, yet she is blind to the beauty that Psyche has found.  And here I suppose the line between reality and myth is blurred.  The whole book I could not decide what was real and what was story--and I'm pretty sure that's right where Lewis wanted me to be.  Because in his eyes, Jesus is a story, salvation is a myth.  The only difference is that it's a real story.  It's a true myth.  (More coherent musings on that and this book here, part one and part two.)  And either way, Orual still needs, desires, craves that crazy little thing called love.  Or rather, Love, for God is love.

"When we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy."  -C.S. Lewis

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this now.  I guess it's just so easy to slip into the mindset of loving selfishly.  Loving because I want something in return, and not loving because I don't think there's anything in it for me.  And watching the story unfold as Orual does just that, it struck me how easy it is to not even realize when I am in that mindset.  I really felt for Orual--sympathized with her even--wanted to scream at Psyche that she had no idea what she was doing.  But the next moment I wanted nothing more than to beat some sense into Orual who is obviously missing some great truth that Psyche has found.  Orual is completely unaware, and she not only makes Psyche suffer, but she does harm to herself as well.

Ahh, this selfish loving that we're used to is not Jesus love.  It's not agape love, unconditional and sacrificial.  We don't think about it.  In a world that clamors for rights and equality, we don't realize that if life was fair, we'd be dead.  Sinful, hopeless, unloved, and dead.

"If there is equality it is in His love, not it us."  -C.S. Lewis

And that makes me infinitely grateful.  For various reasons, but namely that I was blind, but now I see.  That I have Love.  That I don't have to desperately seek fulfillment in loving a Psyche or being a queen.  That my identity is in Him, however great the amount that I don't deserve it.  That he is my lover and beauty and truth.  And I must seek to love as unselfishly has He has loved me.  His love is so great, so vast, so unselfish, so important, so good, so necessary to my existence.

"There are four questions of value in life...What is sacred?  Of what is the spirit made?  What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for?  The answer to each is the same.  Only love."  -Johnny Depp

And I would change that a bit to say, only Love.


  1. hmm...I don't really know where to start! Love is a subject not readily written about by bloggers, but it is so controversial and can easily "offend" people. But I'm glad you had the courage to :)
    So often we think of mushy-gushy boy/girl love as the truest love, but real love is found in Jesus's sacrifice in laying down His life for us.
    This morning I read in Romans about how Christ died for us while we were yet enemies, and it had a note about the word "love." Agape love, that is. It said that the highest love, agape, is not based on feelings or emotions, but in determination. I mulled over that for a little while, and realized how true it was!
    Love is not a feeling. and I think that's why there are so many broken marraiges today, because people mistake feelings for love, and then expect that to carry them through. Then when hard times hit, a feeling isn't good enough. True love is not a feeling.
    Anyways....please excuse my excessive ramblings. I really enjoyed this post.

  2. This is so beautiful Jenn!! I agree with Simi above, love is not a feeling it's a gift.

    Thank you for sharing!


  3. this is wonderful. i'll have to be reading this book now; everything you said is so true!
    ps. photography is really lovely <3

  4. Your words are so poignant, and your pictures beautiful, half my mind was admiring your pictures, the other half swallowing your words.

    I'm just about to start Till We Have Faces, and my siblings who LOVE this book have been pressuring me to read it. Currently I'm reading "I capture the Castle" but after reading your post, I can't wait to begin Till We Have Faces.

    Thank you again.

  5. "Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained." –C. S. Lewis
    ^^One of my favorites from C.S. Lewis. Jenn, you know that Till We Have Faces was not my favorite book--I think it kind of scared me, because I knew I had the same selfish desires that Orual did. But the reminder was good, however sharp. "Love, having become a god, becomes a demon" (Lewis). But that isn't real Love. Real Love is always wishing for the best for other's no matter what the cost to self. And I hope to keep learning that every day of my life.

    Thanks for writing this dear! It's beautiful, just like you, and I love your deep thoughts. They're always so honest and real and encouraging and thought provoking. Love is about as deep a subject as you could ever get. ;) But it's always worth it to even scratch the surface of the deep.

    AND, one more thing: you HAVE to read "The Four Loves" by your hero (and mine). I'm in the middle, and I REALLY like it. Lewis was rich in wisdom.

    So thankful for a friend like you!

  6. this is rich. flooded with morsels of wisdom and truth.

    lewis always seems to take those most perfect things and wrap them up so well. i have had "Till We Have Faces" sitting on my bookshelf since Junior year of high school. i have never read it...until now. i have to read it now. i must.

    this post is inspirational. you did so wonderfully well.

  7. Yeesh, I don't even know where to begin. I suppose I could just start by saying "Good job." That was impressive. Of course, barely scratching the surface, but then again who ever could? I'll have to read it as retold by C.S. Lewis, because I've read the tale before, but I'm sure he puts it much better. Ah, love. It's a tough topic to discern upon, simply because it's so deep and all-encompassing. Still, this does a very good job of delving into it. *watching you*

  8. So your blog is positively gorgeous. I love your photography. Love how clean and pretty this space is. And I absolutely love this entry. I have to fight the tendency so much to find fulfillment in other things; there's a chronic people-pleaser in me I have to always watch for. God's love totally liberates me from having to prove myself to people. I know His love never wavers, but I'm still learning how to abide in it. Also, I hadn't heard the quote you boxed at the top - about a good book leaving you exhausted. But that's so spot on. That is exactly how I feel when I've finished reading a book I love! (I noticed you won Paperdoll, by the way. Hope you enjoy it! :)

  9. jenn, you are inspiring! i believe c.s. lewis would love how you translated his translation, haha! and i love how you capitalized the 'l' at the end to mean the one and only Love, instead of just love♥

    anna :)

  10. I had to read that book for school and, to be honest, I was confused for most of it. When I got to the end though I actually understood a bit as to what C.S. Lewis was meaning. But you touched on some things that I didn't catch myself. His books are like putting together a puzzle. Hehe ;) Great post, Jenn!

  11. So true. Now I want to read that book. :)

  12. I loved this post, and the photography - stunning.

  13. Beautiful, inspiring post, Jenoelle. I loved it. The pictures are beautiful as well.

  14. Wow, that sounds like such an interesting story! I will have to look it up. This is an amazing post.
    Love is something God really has been teaching me about over the years. Through His word, always. I find I understand love a bit more everytime I learn more about Him, because He is love.
    His love is so sacrificial, so unselfish; and then we are completely undeserving. It's deeper then words. It can only be felt.

  15. How come this amazing post never showed up on my dashboard?!

    Jennoelle, you never fail to amaze me with your thought provoking writing. "And I must seek to love as unselfishly has He has loved me."--yes, yes, yes! Not to mention that your photos are stunning--I love the dof and lighting! :)

    I've read lots of C.S. Lewis, but never that particular book. I'll have to find a copy!

    (In response to your question on my blog)
    The numbers take on the link color of your blog because they are linked to that specific comment. So change your link color and that will change the number color too!
    For targeted links in the header, I'll refer you to this Tuesday's Tip. Let me know if you have any questions. =)

  16. Hey im your new follower :) great blog and really awesome pictures ;D have a good weekend!!


  17. I love this's so beautiful and so true :)

  18. Hello Jenoelle!

    I can't tell you how many times I've seen your sweet comments on my blog, and said to myself, "I need to visit her blog!!" ..but, it never happened, until now. ;) And I must say~I am IMPRESSED. I love. love. looove your blog, dear! It is so fresh, and lovely, and inspiring. :] And you and your sister (I looked at your photoshoot with her ;) are GORGEOUS!! :]

    Anyways~I am now a follower, ;) and shall be back. Keep up the amazing work! This post was amazing, too. <33



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