The lilies start to drown
eyes are set?
or feet are planted on the ground
Is this just fate?
Have I no choice, no thought, no will?
Doomed and caught
Only happy if God wills?
Do I chase unknowns
Is it good or is it sin?
I wade through swamplands
Can I see light through passage dim?
Shall time repeat
and shall I once again be cut?
The hounds are hungry
the shattered glass mangles my foot
and once again the blood does flow
and can with me a lily grow?
I'm still unsure
and start to cry
can mingled tears make blood run dry?
Today I want to talk about a subject that I will be considered to have no firm place to discuss: Love
I have been reading the classic Sherlock Holmes recently and I was struck by how marriage and its provisions are described in the time of it’s writing. Couples met, courted, and married many times within a matter of weeks and at most months. Men told women they loved them after meeting them for the first time. Women married any truly decent man they could find who showed interest. People married often and remarriage was neither unusual nor infamous, simply practical. Marriage was seen primarily at this time as a way to provide for both parties with the affixed benefit of companionship.
Fast forward to today. Marriage is anything but for practicality and far more often than not leads to vastly more complex social and financial situations for all parties involved. It has become convoluted beyond even the stratifications of gender and the compliments that each pay each other in regards to managing household life and childbearing as the gay marriage movement and its subsidiaries have swept the nation.
Love today is completely focused around the individual’s preferences. Around choice. Even more tellingly, almost exclusively around dating and marriage relationships.
Completely ignoring the rate of divorce, people continually tell themselves there is one person out there who is right for them. Discontented with their significant others physically and emotionally, because they do not measure up completely to their idea of a perfect partner.
In the old days, you did not pick and choose with marriage. You were not half as likely to say “well I won’t marry her because I do not feel strongly enough for her” or “He is not quite handsome or strong enough, so I’ll look for someone better” or “She’s just a bit too introverted for my tastes”. Now marriage was still based on some shallow grounds. Looks, basic charm, and and social status governed much of who ended up with who. But much of the time arrangements were made for the best of both parties, unless something desperate and criminal was involved.
Even farther back in the Old Testament it was very likely the couple barely met or knew each other before the marriage was arranged. Today we find this appalling. To even imagine not knowing the person we would spend our lives with! But that’s because these marriages were based in practical matters not selfish emotion. Now they were not based in love for the most part, but I would venture many if not most marriages today aren’t either.
What I see as the pivotal and fundamental difference is that old marriages didn’t lie to themselves like we do now. They understood that love is a choice. Many longsuffering people ended up with bad mates. But they loved them anyway. Of course there are people who do this today, and there are people who were not so kind back then. My issue is not so much with the idea that all of the old ways were better, simply that they, unlike most of us today, understood what love looked like a great deal better. We see a husband or wife stick beside a poor or even malicious mate today and we do not chalk it up to love. We put it rather on fear, stupidity, or weakness. Again, maybe in some instances, even many this is the truth, but it is a cynical truth to cling to when it drives our hearts coldly and cleanly past the caring hearts of real, raw, beautiful devotion, exuded by nobler hearts than our own. People who meant till death do us part. People who whether or not their actions are reciprocated, continually make small daily choices to act in the interests of other people and not simply out of selfishness.
Even more despairingly we have put love in the box of romantic feelings. One of the finest examples of love I can think of was that between David and Jonathan in the bible, and the selfless care and brotherhood they had. We have forgotten that romantic love is a type or use of love, not the thing itself. There are a great many friendships and family relationships which love far deeper than the vast majority of the boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife relationships do today. Society has so poisoned our view of love that all across the globe are people bemoaning a lack of someone to love them when they are surrounded by wonderful friends and family doing just that. before trying to jump into a relationship sit and think for a while about how well you love those closest to you in family and friendship, because that is the measure of how you really love people right now, not how strongly you feel about someone romantically.
I think C. S. Lewis put it best when he wrote: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained”. Today we have so dissected and boiled down love that we have stripped it of what makes it truly beautiful. We told ourselves that love is what we feel. what we want. In the wise words of my friend Abby Mcmillan, “When we say we love someone we really mean we love ourselves and we want them. ” We love ourselves, and so we have made desire the ultimate god in choosing a mate, and the ultimate object in what we mean by saying love. No longer do we marry based on what is best, beautiful, right, helpful, wise, or even scientifically reasonable, but instead we choose whoever we lust the most after physically and emotionally. When that person changes, we break up, separation, divorce. No longer do we love friends and family. We use them or enjoy them, but we forget that we are meant to love them.
I am not yet married, and though I am nineteen and in college, I have never been on a date. But one truth I hold more tightly to with each passing day: The idea that we must of our own accord find “the one” person who we can unconditionally love for the rest of our lives is nonsense. God may have a specific person he has arranged for us to marry (I am counting on it) but that is neither in our knowledge and control, and as we are called to love all people as Christ does, that person could be anyone (of the opposite gender of course). Regardless even of that person, we are surrounded by tons of wonderful people who need our non romantic love just as much. Focusing our energies on needing to find someone to end up with is not only foolish but not the part we should worry about happening.
It isn’t hard to find someone to love.
It’s hard to actually love them.