elastic love

The greatest creed ever professed is the psalmist’s, who believed God said “I do not desire the death of any living thing.”

When you are younger, it is very easy to love—choosing tenderness is second nature. But love is more brittle, it is more fragile, so susceptible to snapping. Old wineskins, about to break.

Love can hold so much. I am endlessly surprised by how love is never not on the other side of darkness, of how love looks back into pain and claims it for itself. And I know, even though I cannot imagine it—because love outpaces my imagination—that love will endure and subsume so much more than it already has through however many days, months, and years I have left to live.

We tell so many stories of love finally snapping—of love that hardens into something that cannot expand to hold anything more. We tell stories of cold women and bitter men. We tell them because we are afraid of reaching the breaking point of love. To exist past the breaking point of love is an unlivable existence—it is hell.

But love does not snap. Love does not eventually crumble into shadows. Cling to her like a life preserver, and love bears you through storms of sorrow, of fear, of the dim half-truths of anger or jealousy, through the desert of fear or scarcity, back to herself. Back to the living waters that never run dry.

Love can look back into what we thought was unspeakable, into shame we thought inexpressible, and give voice to even that. It can say—there I was, even in the midst of that, and here I remain, eating your disappointment whole.

There is no limit to the disappointment that love cannot hold. Disappointment seems to be the enemy of idealistic young love. The language of love does not make room for disappointment: I’ll be there for you “always,” I’ll love you “forever,” I’ll be by your side, I’m in your heart, we are intertwined. But those words do not exist in opposition to disappointment, but through it and around it. Love is where we return to, even in the moments we were not with one another, our desire will lapse and lag, our attention attenuates, self-interest will mildew our devotion, but love is where we return to—the place that holds all of ourselves, our imperfections and our losses along with our joys.

Love is there, waiting for us, holding us, saying: even in the midst of that, I was with you. Even in the thick of that, I was returning to you. No matter what pain warped the bonds between us, love is the shape it slowly reverts to. Love is an elastic force, springing back to where it was, reverberating from the wounds it has endured.

What can hold the entire world, its history, its scars, its pains, its daily perpetuated terrors, and never tire?

1 comment

  1. Renée, this is a marvelous post and something I needed to hear today, so thank you very much for writing and sharing this. Those images of Love as “an elastic force . . . reverberating from the wounds it has endured” and “eating your disappointment whole” are sources of powerful reflection. I think this will help me pray more deeply about what it means to be embraced by God’s love and to be conformed to that, so thank you again. I hope you are staying healthy and well in New York!


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