Shadowlands is one of my all time favorite movies. The story is loosely based on the life of C.S. Lewis. Anthony Hopkins, who plays Lewis, is wonderful as always. Debra Winger plays the American poet, Joy Gresham, whom Lewis actually married relatively late in life. The dialog in the movie is excellent. The plot is downright moving. It is a movie about a romance. But of even greater significance in my mind, it is about people learning to relate to each other in the midst of overwhelming emotional pain. Lewis married Joy Gresham in 1956. She died in 1960. Thus the storyline for Shadowlands…
In reflecting on his wife’s cancer, Anthony Hopkins playing Lewis says this:
Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.
C.S. Lewis’ mother died when he was 10 years old. As you can imagine, that event shaped the rest of his life, and particularly the way he related to people. It also gives the above quote a proper context for understanding. As a boy he chose the safety of withdrawing is how I would interpret his comment. It was his sweet wife who helped him see that the pain was a part of the happiness, as she struggled with a life threatening illness.
How does his experience shape our understanding of loving and the associated pain of losing? The conclusion I have reached is that the love we have for those closest to us reaches an uncharted level when pain and the threat of loss enters the relationship. We learn to love in ways we have never loved before.
In recent years, I have watched my peers agonize over the loss of their closest friends. They have suffered in untold ways. Everyday they have to choose suffering over safety, because it is tempting to never love again. It hurts too much. As they suffer and grieve, they continue to face the challenge of loving once again. I think that is a challenge we will all face at some point. Watch Shadowlands. It is worth the time.