What is love and is it worth it? Countless words have been written on this topic, and I’m fairly certain I have nothing to say on the subject of romance and love in general which hasn’t been said before by better writers than I. Nevertheless, in my recent readings I stumbled across some truths I felt compelled to share. And I suppose that since it is the month of “love” it might not go amiss. However, I warn you that I’m taking a darker and more tragic look at the subject than what might be considered altogether pleasurable.
I recently read a short story by Oscar Wilde entitle “The Nightingale and the Rose.” I came across this work in a book of short stories and was reading under the assumption that in the end love would win, the young man would get his dance with the beautiful girl, and the sweet Nightingale would at least go down in history as having given her all for the greater beauty. I was anticipating tragedy, yes, but I assumed it would be worth it. The actual reality of the ending took my breath away.
To give a short overview for those who aren’t familiar with the work. Basically, a young man is in love and wants to dance with the beautiful maiden, but she will only agree if he brings her a red rose. Unfortunately, there are no red roses anywhere to be found. Naturally, this creates a bit of a problem for the young man and he is rather distraught. There is, however, a beautiful nightingale who, unbeknownst to him, sees and commiserates with his plight. She realizes she has the power to create a red rose if she sings all night, drives a thorn into her heart, and gives all of her life blood. She decides that love is worth it.
All through the night she sings as the thorn goes deeper and deeper into her heart. At dawn her life fades away, but the most exquisite red rose has been created. Beautiful, right? Terribly tragic, but now the young man will find the rose, live happily ever after with his love, and the nightingale will have sacrificed nothing in vain. Wrong. It turns out the young man flippantly grabs the rose, knowing nothing of the sacrifice of the nightingale, and is promptly refused by the young lady who declares that it won’t match her dress and she has agreed to dance with someone else. The young man throws the rose away and goes back to his books. The end. Ouch.
I can’t help but look at this in a much broader life context and I am convicted and challenged. How little I love. How little I care about people beyond how it affects me personally. The nightingale sang herself to death knowing that no results would benefit her in any way–it was ALL for someone else. And they never even knew it. They never even appreciated it.
Am I willing to do this. Am I willing to give my life, give my all, go into the deepest darkest places of pain and prayer for someone else. For someone who might never know or appreciate the sacrifice. Is it worth it? Is it worth it if it never makes sense? If I pray and pray and give and give and never see ANYTHING? Is it worth it?
Look at the Cross. Look at Jesus. What did He do, and how many countless people have rejected the love He gave? But I am convinced that even if NO ONE ever returned His love or accepted His gift, He would still have done it. It is worth it. It is worth crying out in soul-wrenching prayer, giving your time, energy, emotions, and passion for another individual even if it never brings you personally any joy, and instead leaves you in greater pain than before. Do it anyways, because Jesus did it for you, and it is the very least we can give back. Maybe it isn’t our story, but we are being called to be a chapter in the story of someone else. My prayers and my committed love are the very least I can give back to a God who gave everything for me.
Love is always worth it.