‘So what happens when the heart just stops
Stops caring for anyone
The hollow in your chest dries up
And you stop believing’
The Frames ‘What happens when the heart just stops?’
‘Don’t ya think that you need somebody
Don’t ya think that you need someone
Everybody needs somebody
You’re not the only one
You’re not the only one’
Guns N’ Roses ‘November Rain’
‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear’ (1 John 4:18)
No fear in love?
But love is a risky thing. There is almost no way to avoid risk when you love. Its very act is an act of opening yourself up, making yourself vulnerable. This is often stated in terms of exclusive relationships but is also true in many other scenarios. Love between friends, family all includes risk. Loving that new jumper, you bought last week is a risk. What if you lose it? Same goes for work, houses, cars…anything really.
Love is a risky thing. When you make yourself vulnerable, you could get hurt. Love is never grasped apart from courage. In November Rain, Axl Rose sings about taking a risk and being rebuffed. The pain and hurt, the anger, is clear in the vocal as he sings. He is quoted as saying “November Rain is a song about not wanting to be in a state of having to deal with unrequited love.” He is still very much in love with a woman, but she is no longer in love with him. He uses a metaphor to express how difficult it is to cope with unrequited love: “It’s hard to hold a candle, in the cold November rain.”
Here, holding the candle stands for him trying to hold onto his love for her, while the cold November rain is the absence of her love. It is difficult to love someone who does not return the feeling. And inevitably, his love will also die, just as the candle will be extinguished by the rain. He does not want this to happen, but eventually it will, unless the weather changes for the better.
Love is a risky thing. Glen Hansard explains that The Frames song ‘What happens when the heart just stops’ is about “waking up in under a bush in your ex-girlfriend’s garden….this is a song about getting drunk and forgetting that you don’t go out with her anymore…forgetting that she doesn’t love you anymore…this is about…needing, this is about being, wanting too much, wanting to be close to someone too much”. It’s about loving someone so much that you lose all logic.
Love can, as Glen Hansard explains, turn us into ‘an abandon train, speeding, been driven by lion, on ice… [we become] out of control.’ The song itself is about praying for the craziness to end. Praying that you can get your heart under control, only to regret it. The heart just stops. Stops caring. Stops loving. And it’s only then that the singer wishes he could go back, cause the dull pain of not loving is worse than all the craziness of love. The song ends with him singing over again ‘I’m disappointed, I’m disappointed’
Love is a risky thing. The Hollywood ideals we imagine in our heads can at times turn to nightmares. As Wendy highlighted in a previous blog, domestic abuse is a reality. A reality experienced by people in our communities, in our friendship circles, in our churches. A reality that is almost impossible to understand, unless you’ve been through it. As Wendy advocated, ‘Listen to her, believe her, if at all possible put her in touch with others who have had similar experiences who will offer understanding, wisdom, support and care.’
Love is a risky thing. Because inevitably at some point, we do suffer loss. People pass away. People leave. Friendships fade. Treasured possessions get lost or stolen. The author CS Lewis experienced a lot of this loss in his life. He lost his mother around the age of nine. He lost Paddy Moore, a close friend he fought with in World War I. He lost his father. And, by no means least, he lost his beloved wife Joy to cancer. Despite these tragic losses, Lewis says this about love, echoing what he read from Hansard in some ways, in The Four Loves:
‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be broken. If you want to be sure to keep it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglement, lock it up safe in the casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change…It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the perturbation of love is Hell.’
Love is a risky thing. There seems to be so much to fear. Fear of being rebuffed, turned down, rejected, abused, out of control, grieved. Yet the Bible tells that ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear’ (1 John 4:18)
Except the Bible doesn’t really tell us that. I mean…it does, but I’ve chopped the end of the sentence off. I’ve butchered it to within an inch of its life. This is exactly the problem we have when we take out sentences here and there willy-nilly. We change the meaning of something which is meant to be life giving and make it, somehow, less.
You see if the sentence finishes there we are left in the abyss. We are left wondering why we still fear at times, is it because our love is not perfect? We are flawed. We are hopeless. Maybe my partner is not my soul-mate cause I still have fears. Maybe we need a change. Maybe I should pray more, read the bible more, give more money to the church. Maybe we need to reconnect to the Holy Spirit. And maybe we do. But do not let this butchered verse convince you all on its own. Instead let’s read it in more detail. Perhaps you could even cosy up with your Bible read the whole of 1 John. It’ll only take you 15 to 20 minutes. In my next blog I’ll explore this passage and what we learn about love through the short book of 1 John.
‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and him in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and them in God. And so, we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.’