Monday, November 2, 2009

The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus - Unconditional Love (Part 1)

(click for previous chapter: The Fine Print)

What good would marriage vows do if they went like this:

“I promise to love you in health, for better and richer, until I change my mind…”?

Without the contrasting, scary side of each of those coins, what kind of commitment can you expect? Who would like to volunteer for that relationship? Even you men out there… down deep in that true heart of yours… if you’re looking for love at all, the conditional kind just won’t cut it.

Unconditional love is the goal, then, the desire of our hearts. We seek it from human lovers, and we were designed to accept and experience it from our Heavenly Lover. Consequently, we gravitate toward representations of it in stories we read and the movies we watch. From Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan saving Jane from the jungle priestess, claiming, “She [Jane] is mine,” to Daniel Day-Lewis as Nathaniel calling out, “I will find you,” to Cora in Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans, romantic stories awake in us the reality that we are sought by a committed, loving God who will do anything to have a relationship with us. Edward Cullen’s display of unconditional love for Bella in the Twilight saga compels because it reminds us of what we really want, what we were designed to want.

It all starts with peril.

Unconditional love is present the very first time Edward meets Bella in Biology class. Wait, you say, wasn’t his first reaction hate? Didn’t he want to kill her? Wasn’t her number up? How could unconditional love be present in that dangerous, destructive situation?

How could it not?

All fairy tales have peril, but not quite like this. Sure, Prince Charming and his damsel in distress faced a couple of wicked witches casting some pesky evil spells. Romeo and Juliet had to deal with a warring, dysfunctional family, poor babies, and Superman and Lois Lane met with a constant barrage of life-threatening situations from diabolical villains. Each hero shows great strength and valor and bravery overcoming foes and rescuing his love.

Good for them.

But in Edward’s case, he is the threat to his love.

Bella was in real danger that first day, although she didn’t… couldn’t … know just how much. I think we forget or don’t realize the extent of Edward’s ominous side since there wouldn’t be a story if he had killed her in chapter one. But grasping this threat is the key to understanding. His first act of unconditional love is not acting on his instinct to kill her, even though every bone in his body screamed for him to do so, even though he suffered excruciating pain from abstaining. The first, immediate, evidence of unconditional love from Edward is his choice to let her live at great cost to himself.

Since Twilight is from Bella’s perspective, readers get only a mere glimpse of the terrible agony Edward suffered throughout their relationship, especially that first day. To her credit, Bella perceives some of it, and so we see through her eyes to what extent she thinks he is suffering. Later, in chapter thirteen’s meadow scene, he shares a little bit more, and so we know a little bit more. But who really realized, comprehended, or stopped to feel Edward’s pain at any point of this story?

This makes me think of Jesus.

Do we ever think about the fact that God has made the same choice for us? Consider the comparison that our sin, which is so much a part of us it might as well run in our veins, assaults the very nostrils of God, causing Him pain. Humans reek of sin. God Almighty has the strength, ability, power, and right (the one thing Edward didn’t have in reference to Bella) to destroy us, if He so chooses. After all, the wages of sin is death. (Rom. 6:3)

Like Bella on the first day of school, we don’t comprehend in the least how much danger we are in. At first, we don’t know what an assault our sinful nature has on the heart of God or realize the price of overcoming that barrier. Although God tells us through the Bible the whole story through His eyes, we still cling to our own perspective, instead living on the terms of our own point of view. Sometimes the Gospel does not stagger us as it should because we are not seeing through God’s eyes the suffering, the cost, the immensity of His actions in order to bridge the gap, have a relationship with us, to show His unconditional love.

Jesus sweat blood as He faced the cross and all of its ramifications. (Luke 22:41-44) Do we remember that part of the story? As a human, have you ever been so distressed, so passionately pained that you actually squeezed your own blood out of your pores? Have you ever loved someone that much? Suffered for someone that much?

Neither have I.

Why did Jesus choose to suffer so much?

Wednesday, we’ll tackle that question in the light of unconditional love as I continue to share with you How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus.

See you then!

(click for next chapter: Unconditional Love, part 2)


Anonymous said...

Oh wow. You bring to light some great points, Lori. Challenging too.

Never thought about it that way with Edward. Sure, he told us it was difficult to refrain from killing her. . . to to really understand and grasp just HOW hard...that really never entered my brain.

Nice post. I'll be back WED.

Marilyn said...

I hadn't thought about this aspect of Edward's character and especially how this relates to Jesus.

KM Wilsher said...

Bravo! Bravo!

I dont remember the night he sweat drops of blood for us. . .often enough.

His love for us -- undconditional.

Thank you!