Thursday, March 30, 2006

Too Much to One's Self

A friend of mine recently sent me this quote from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray saying that she thought of me for some reason when she read it:

"Oh, I can't explain. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town now I never tell people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance into one's life."

She asked if it meant anything to me. My first thought was in regard to my recent trip to England during which I had no communication with the outside world and only left the contact number of my friend in Cambridge for my boss and my parents. No one really knew much about where I was going or what I would be doing. Partly because I didn't know myself, nor did I care, and thought it would be a wonderful adventure to steep myself in the mystery of it all. But then what my young Dorian Gray friend didn't know is that while on this mysterious adventure of a trip I decided to make such mysterious adventures a habit...twice a year if finances allow, but most assuredly every year at spring break as long as I'm teaching. And yes, I did decide that I would not tell anyone where I would be going.

As I thought more about it, I realized that new decision is probably a more healthy hold over from the days when I did more exclusively cherish secrecy, locking it "up safe in the casket or coffin of [my] selfishness". It was once a pet that I would stroke tenderly and privately, consoling myself with the thought that no one knew what I was going through nor did they care. I love C.S. Lewis all the more now that I have been to his house, his colleges, his pub, and his grave. But before I knew anything about him, or cared anything for him, this was the quote that lead me to the path of sharing life through community:

"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, unpenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." --The Four Loves

Our natural tendencies, both good and bad, are a part of who we are, but they need not define us or control our lives. Nor should we rely on them, depend on them, as an excuse or a crutch never to be overcome. To come face to face with the important truth that our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses, and our greatest weaknesses can be our greatest strengths is indeed a sobering yet hope-filled realization!

1 comment:

BriannaB said...

Our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses, yet they are our greatest strengths...submitted in obedience and covered by the grace and mercy of Christ, our greatest strengths may remain as such...