What does it mean to give your life away in order to give life to others? What does it mean to say that love is sacrificial, a taking up the cross, a form of self-denial?
In trying to puzzle this out I've meditated a great deal on this quote from Arthur McGill:
The way of Jesus is the way of self-expenditure.Is that hyperbole? Dysfunctional? Is it suicidal? A thirst for martyrdom?
I don't think so, but I do think there is a martyrological sensibility to all this. This is what I think:
Love is the allocation of our dying.
Life is a finite resource always slipping away. Every minute that passes is a passing of life, a movement toward death. Every moment we are being expended and used up.
But we have some choices in how we are expended. We can allocate our dying. We can specify the times and places of our dying.
My point here is that, because life is a finite resource, giving ourselves to others is a very real sort of sacrifice. It's not suicidal or dysfunctional, but it is sort of martyrological in that I am literally dying the minutes I spend with you. To be with you--to love you--is to die a little bit. A sacrificial giving of my life to you.
When we think of "giving our lives away" our minds tend to jump to big, dramatic gestures. And it can be that sort of thing. In crisis situations people do act heroically, giving their lives in a big single action to save others. But I wonder if the difference here is more quantitative rather than qualitative, a matter of degree rather than of kind. Because to love other people in small but tangible ways over a lifetime is a way of dying. But a slower, drip, drip rather than a big splash.
Which is to say that I do think there is something sacrificial and martyr-like in giving small gifts of love to each other. Love is a sacrifice, an expenditure.
Love is a beautiful way to live, which means that love is, in the final analysis, a beautiful way to die.