‘The Magnificent Defeat’


Real love always has a cost.

To love someone without baggage, someone who never bleeds emotionally (i.e. selfish, lashes out, holds grudges, withdraws, etc.) and is always happy, always encouraging, requires zero effort on our part.

The truth, of course, is that “someone” doesn’t exist. There is no one on this planet who does not carry the burden of being imperfectly loved, and therefore is imperfect in how they love others. 

We have all been wounded emotionally at some level and those wounds, originate, more often then not, from those we trust the most.

We have all been betrayed at some level, no matter how wonderful the parent, spouse, guardian, mentor, friend, etc.

To truly love someone requires some sort of cost/sacrifice on our part, whether it’s of time, money, status, pride, security or safety.

Greater love has no person than this: to lay down your life for another.

Some of our most beloved stories are the ones where one person sacrifices themself for another.

Most of us would say that we would lay our life down for our lover or our children or a dear friend. And likely many of us would.

But tales where the hero pushes someone out of the way to take the bullet, or takes a friend’s place on the gallows, while prevalent in literature and popular entertainment, are much harder to find in real life.

But that doesn’t change the equation that real love equal sacrifice.

It’s become deeply ingrained in popular culture the past four or five decades to equate freedom with the ability to do whatever you want.

We say we love someone but what happens when that love is put to the test? What happens when the cost of loving that person is too painful, too time consuming, too much work?

Of course I would lay down my life for my wife. But am I willing to take on her own woundedness? What if she is critical or speaks harshly to me? Am I willing to lay my life down then, shoulder that burden, and not treat her in kind?

I say I love my friend but how about those times when it gets too difficult, too time consuming or comes at too high a personal cost?

Whenever I am wronged, something deep within me cries out for some sort of compensation, an apology, regret…TOSS ME A BONE. When none of that is forth-coming, what then? Do I hold onto that hurt and become a martyr? Do I lash out and take an eye for an eye?

Or do I choose to love that person sacrificially?

This theme of sacrificial love is much more eloquently and evocatively expressed by writer and theologian Frederick Buechner

The Magnificent Defeat — Frederick Buechner

The love for equals is a human thing — of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy — love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

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