Nicholas Wolterstorff is a lovely man. I wish that I could study under him. I’d love to think with the clarity and frankness he does.
I’ve not read much of his stuff, but what I have read, I’ve enjoyed. Even when I haven’t agreed, Wolterstorff’s writing has a way of worming into me and returning, again and again. His thoughts are not easily forgotten.
Thankfully, one such thought has been freeing for me. It’s about suffering love.
I’m referring here to an essay titled “Suffering Love”, which deals primarily with the topic of God’s passibility (as Wolterstorff sees it). (Read it here.)
Wolterstorff writes, “To some of the things of this world one can pay the tribute of recognizing in them sufficient to merit a love which plunges into suffering upon their destruction… One can pay to persons and things the existential triumph of suffering love… Suffering is an essential element in that mode of life which says not only “No” to the misery of our world but “Yes” to its glories.”
In a way, this is simple. But it’s key. It gives me permission to suffer over destruction of those I love – whether small destruction, expressed in loneliness for company, or the ultimate destruction of death. I need not control my love in an effort to control my suffering, I need not take Augustine’s advice to hold at arm’s length human love, because suffering is a sign of love.
The world is fallen, and if I am to have love, I am to have suffering.