The Pioneer Gift – a love story

I really like the film ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and must have watched it a million times! What I find fascinating about it is the different approach to love that the two Dashwood sisters Eleanor and Marianne adopt. Hence the title. One seems very sensible and level-headed, yet nurses a secret hope. The other is passionate, romantic and indiscreet, almost allowing herself to be destroyed by betrayal and rejection. I resonate with this story so much because I see the two sides of myself represented in these characters. As Marianne asks throughout the film, ‘is love a fancy or a feeling?’

As you have seen from my previous blog, I have been reflecting on the relational dynamic between the pioneer and the institution. I had a great conversation this week with a friend and she really helped me to see that the issue at the heart of what often goes wrong is trust. But why does trust break down to be replaced by control? On reflection, I think it comes down to fear. The institution fears losing what it has and feels threatened by the critique of those who see new possibilities. Yet I am reminded of these words of Jesus, “For whoever wills to save his life will lose it and whoever will lose his life for me will find it.” (Matt 16:25) This seems equally true for institutions, as well as individuals. By seeking to maintain the status quo and go for the safe, tried and tested model of growth, organisations can become irrelevant and their fear of loss actually becomes reality.

So what is the antidote to fear? Well, the Bible is clear on this too, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) And what is love? Yes, “Love is patient and kind and keeps no record of wrong.” However it also, “does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but delights in the truth.” I wonder if pioneers are misunderstood because when we think of love we only remember the first part of 1 Corinthians 13. Yet, as the passage continues, there is another way to express love. And that is to say the difficult, truthful things no one else is honest and brave enough to say.

I love like this not because I want to wound or destroy, but the exact opposite. I want the best for those I care about most. I love enough to be unpopular. I love enough for my intentions to be misconstrued. I love enough to be excluded and humiliated. However, there comes a point when I also love enough for the consequences of poor decision-making and misdirected strategy to come to pass and I love myself enough to say no more.

In addition, I love God enough to create the new thing without it benefitting the institution. “Is love a fancy, or a feeling? No. It is immortal as immaculate Truth.” So, neither is love dead. “It is my love’s being yet it cannot die, Nor will it change, though all be changed beside; Though fairest beauty be no longer fair, Though vows be false, and faith itself deny, Though sharp enjoyment be a suicide, And hope a spectre in a ruin bare.”* Love will always remain and, even though I choose a different path, be assured I continue to grieve the loss just as keenly.

*Sonnet VII by Hartley Coleridge