If we love well, allowing ourselves to be “all in,” we will undoubtedly have experiences that bring pain to our lives. We will have vulnerability, the possibility of being wounded. And we will need perseverance, the ability to remain courageous in the experience of wounds.
Love invites us into the fullness of the first lines of the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
The prayer is an invitation to learn and live the struggle of vulnerability and perseverance.
Our perseverance in life is built upon our capability to continue to love even in the midst of the pain that love inevitably leads to. Relationships require and bring pain as a part of life and as a result of love. For example, the moment we begin to connect with, care about, and invest in our children, fear, worry, heartache, hurt, and powerlessness come into our lives. Along with, of course, joy, care, and celebration.
There is such pain with love and much gladness, vulnerability and perseverance. Learning to hold this tension well is a hallmark of living well and growth in a full-hearted person. Being willing and able to cry and laugh at any given moment is our ability to live life on life’s terms. And taking the risk of connecting to people and places with our hearts brings us to our most vulnerable places, and our need for perseverance.
Without the ability to expose our most vulnerable places to the process of life on life’s terms, we will miss the lives we can have. Love is a risk precisely because we can survive without loving. But we cannot live fully without loving, which calls us to learn and live in both vulnerability and perseverance.