Returning home on the ferry this week I picked up a copy of a local paper. I usually enjoy the friendly smattering of local interest stories. Being the Valentine's Day edition this one featured a couple of 'fairy tale' romances…
Fairy tales with a twist I suppose. Aren't fairy tales supposed to end with 'happily ever after'? Whose happiness? As I read these stories I couldn't help but glimpse the wretched realities masked between the lines--the other halves discarded along the road to finding the right one, again. And the offspring left to muddle through the ensuing chaos. What does this have to do with love?
"If you can find that person, the rest is 'just stuff'…"
Is finding someone to quell my loneliness and make me happy really the only thing that matters? Is the rest 'just stuff''?
Broken relationships. Abandoned commitments. Children losing their parents to lovers. Just 'stuff'? Just the cost of pursuing true love?
How is this a happy Valentine's Day story? There is so little 'happily ever after'. Granted, they've stuck with each other now for going-on-twenty years. And yes, they've had 'so much fun'. But what happened to the kids when Mom left Dad for someone that she 'couldn't breathe without'? I suppose they are now embarking on life, wondering if marriage is worth it? Wondering why bother? Wondering what love really looks like and how they'll know they've found 'the right one'.
The second feature was a heart-warming 'love story' of childhood sweethearts. But alas, they went their separate ways and 'married other people'. Ooops. Never mind that detail. Thirty-one years later they looked each other up and 'knew [they] still loved each other'. The real spouses fade into oblivion at this point, lost somewhere between lines of newsprint. They are irrelevant in the face of 'real' love. The long-lost sweethearts marry and start over. Happy Valentine's Day(?!)
Now, I suppose these 'other people' to whom they've each pledged their lives might now be dead…maybe, which would make this indeed a heart-warming story. But the absence of any mention of them troubles the waters of this otherwise endearing tale. And I wonder, are we so hard up for true love stories? Or have we just re-written the definition of love?
When the first of these stories was actually happening (twenty years ago), it was a scandal that rocked the political world. As prominent leaders they were forced to abandon their careers. Now that the news headlines have gathered dust with the passing of years, it is touted as a fairy-tale romance. What changed?
Once upon a time love meant to lay down your life for the well-being of another. Love meant bearing with and forgiving. It had everything to do with living for the benefit of another person, being committed to their well-being through thick and thin, sickness and health, happiness and misery. It wasn't about filling my lonely quotient or having fun, though these might well be side-effects of a committed love relationship!
So, with all this pent up objection why haven't I written a letter to the Editor? Why instead am I blogging my complaints into obscurity? Good question.
My righteous indignation upon reading the article was tempered as I looked at the faces in print and it dawned on me, I had met these very people earlier this month, in their home. I was looking to buy a good used piano. They were selling. Suddenly these names took on friendly faces for me, and I began to see them as people, fallen people like myself. The difference is they may not yet have found the 'right One', the only One who can make them whole. How would my outraged letter to the editor help?
The acapella group GLAD sang a song back in the 90's: That's what the lonely is for. It describes our hearts as containing a room that is hollow by design. It says the loneliness we feel is there to tell us that there is something more-- more than the 'thin fire of romance' can ever adequately warm. The song only alludes to the 'more' that is missing.
The common response to our heart's cry is to go seeking that more in human form, from one relationship to another till we find the 'right one'. But there is only one Right One. No human, not even the greatest of spouses can fill that place. We will sap them dry before that happens. No one can love like God loves. No one knows our hearts like He does.
The next track on GLAD's album is: "Make us shine like stars in the Universe…holding out the Word of Life". To a desperate and confused generation searching for answers within itself, the lyrics remind that we are given the role of holding out the Word of Life.
My inclination to denounce evil must somehow also include a lifting of the condemned to see the 'more' they were made for--their Saviour. It's the classic conundrum of being called to love the sinner without condoning their sin. I haven't gotten this one figured out.
It's easy to just throw stones, more difficult to extend grace wisely.
The song goes on to celebrate:
"But your persistent love has found us. Though we stood condemned our lives have been redeemed."
And these days, I find that my awareness of God's grace toward me, softens my heart's harsh reactions toward others who have not yet found His love. So for today I have no letter to the Editor, only this reflection on the awesome Love that has found me and offers to be all I need to fill my lonely heart and make me whole.
And in this context, of God reaching to man, giving Himself for us, a quote from the article at last makes sense: "In the end love conquered all but love also had a cost…" Love always costs the Giver. And no one knows better the cost of love than God Himself. We can trust Him with our love lives. He is our forever Valentine.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. I Jn. 4:9-12 ESV
"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." I Jn.4:16
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Eph.5:25,33
"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:6-8 ESV
Quotations are taken from the Feb.,2014 edition of Powell River Living article titled: “A Made-in-BC Love Story”
That’s what the lonely is for [Click for complete lyrics]
When I get lonely ah, that's only a sign
Some room is empty, and that room is there by design
If I feel hollow - that's just my proof that there's more
For me to follow - that's what the lonely is for
-- David Wilcox