On Suffering (and Love as Teacher)

In Blog by Christine Lisio

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time contemplating a loneliness that I felt inside of me and I frequently turned to the poetry in Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet to try to make sense of the inner turmoil. While this chapter on Love, included below, is not the one that resonated with me the most at that time, it’s one that resonates strongly with me now because, years later, it serves as a mirror showing me the wisdom and understanding I have gleaned through my life’s journey.

This poetic teaching speaks to my path of difficult sufferings that began as teenage angst and later developed into physical suffering from long-term chronic illness.

Physical suffering invites its nearly inevitable companion, emotional suffering, which too is part of the journey so, to use Gibran’s words, “that you may know the secrets of your heart.”

Love is present in it’s role as a teacher, helping us evolve and grow.

“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
….He kneads you until you are pliant;”

I have often felt the strong hand of love ‘kneading me to pliancy’ leading me down my highest life path.

What inspired me to keep going in my darkest moments was the faith that all of the sufferings are for a purpose, which is reflected in the following passage:

“But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love.”

As I consider Gibran’s verse “And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course,” I understand that I have cultivated within me the higher truth that is behind these words.

I have learned that what brings deliverance from suffering is to let go; to stop controlling life from places of fear and shadow.

I have acquired the wisdom to know that love finds you worthy through surrender and through allowing. The beauty is that surrender is the allowing. I only can allow when I surrender. And in doing so, love ‘directs my course;’ I catch the Divine current.

Knowing what it means to catch the Divine current is to experience it and to become aware of what it is and what it is not — another key element for stepping out of the cycles of difficulty and suffering.

Do I experience the Divine current in my life more now? Yes, absolutely.

Do I experience the Divine current in each and every moment? Not yet.

While there is more space between the moments when I contract and restrict, there are still moments when love is ‘kneading’ me to a new level of ‘pliancy’ and this leads to deeper growth which brings more of the treasured Divine current directing my course. I welcome my Divine teacher Love. Most days. 😉

Kahlil Gibran on Love

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn, he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

— Khalil Gibran
The Prophet