I'm afraid I fell victim to an unrealistic idealization of what love was in my younger years. Too many romance novels, no doubt.
I really wanted to be someone's reason for living, I wanted someone to be absolutely consumed by the want of me. Wow. The power. To have someone wrapped around my little finger, ready to leap to accomplish my every whim.
I never got it, praise God.
Instead, the Lord sent me not only a lover, but a friend -- my best friend -- to walk along the path of life with me. In fact, years ago I received one of those flip calendars where each page has a different saying. I saved the one for Dec. 13, Danny's birthday. It reads, "I prayed for an angel from heaven to hold up my weary head ... but God in his wisdom dispensed with the wings and sent me a friend instead."
Are we always hand-in-hand? Not by half. Do we agree on everything? Not by more than half. Is the love between us always white hot, with passion fueling every encounter? Not so much.
Every marriage descends into valleys and climbs steep hills, the couple seldom in sync with one another. Many is the time that I am deep in a valley when Danny is high on a mountaintop, and vice versa. The mountaintop dweller can always be counted on to drop a rope to the denizen of the valley, lending a helping hand up and out of depression, anxiety, disappointment or doubt. In so doing, they are forced to leave the mountaintop, if only for a season, depending on the length of the rope. Which is alright. Life isn't meant to be lived entirely on a mountaintop, the air is thin there and your strength is quickly spent.
There came a time, however, when a siege ramp was laid against our relationship and everything -- even our heretofore unassailable love -- was vulnerable.
It was a long siege, the blockade in place for years. Oh, sometimes the catapult would retreat to the far edge of our consciousness, but it was never out of sight, and could move back into assault position seemingly in the blink of an eye.
All this to introduce an unknown writer, who addressed a "possible article" to the attention of the Editor at the Gazette, McCook, NE. (The post office still does wonders with incomplete addresses.)
The writer, in an introductory missive, identifies herself only by the initials M.R. and writes,
"Editor, I don't know if what I wrote should be thrown in the trash or if someone would like to read it.
Do with it as you see fit."
The missive is followed by nearly two full pages of handwritten angst on the subject of love and the mystery of marriage.
She cites marriages in all walks of life, those found in the world and those found in the church. And she sees little difference and little to praise. She concludes with:
"I see pain and suffering, forgiveness but [sic] endurance and sacrifice for Christians and non-believers both. Where is the happiness? Where is the joy? Where is the love between 1 man and 1 woman were [sic] they would both agree that after 25-40 yrs of marriage that they both individually deeply and truly love each other? Is there such a thing as a love that will last -- or -- does love only endure -- or --do imperfect humans just survive -- what is the difference -- or what difference does it make, anyway? Is it all just a crap shoot?"
She sees the siege ramps in place. Unmoving and unmovable. Relationships torn asunder by the cares of this world or by the lusts of the flesh -- relationships that endure, not because of joy or love, but for fear of what life would be like if a different choice were made.
The letter landed on my desk with the comment, "I don't know what to do with this."
Newspapers perform myriad public services, not the least of which is giving people who otherwise would have none, a voice in the community, so I read it. With apologies to M.R., I almost threw it away, with no signature and no contact information it was tough to know what to do with it. I ended up tossing it to one side for a closer look -- later. It weighed on me every time I picked it up, looking for another scrap of paper pertaining to some other task. It weighed on me when it would rise to the top of my thoughts and call to me for some kind of answer. And then I remembered the siege ramp.
You see, one day, our siege ramp was gone. Vanished, with no trace left behind. The siege, unsuccessful, was over. It was then and remains now a miracle, six years ago come Friday, yet new every morning.
We had tried everything known to man to vanquish this enemy, shedding countless tears, screaming angry words, visiting counselors, enduring trial separations, all to no avail -- the siege held.
What made the difference? Surrender. Not to the enemy who sought to destroy but to the Lord, who sought to deliver.
In every siege, someone is holding onto something that must be surrendered in order for the siege to end. Some hold onto bitterness, unwilling to let go of the anger someone's actions deserve. Some hold onto that same foolish dream I held onto as a child -- the desire to be the object of someone's unbridled passion -- and they look the world over to find someone who can love them like that. Some simply do not know what love is, what it looks like, what it feels like, what it's meant to be and so they settle for a cheap imitation and pride prevents them from admitting that they've been played for a fool. Some hold onto all of the power in a relationship, using manipulation, bribery or even violence to remain in power. Some are bound in chains of addiction, others in chains of selfishness, or are those chains one and the same? It scarcely matters. These chains cannot be broken by sheer dint of human will, they too must be surrendered.
No, M.R., it's not a crap shoot. We can know love, we can know joy, we can know peace and purpose, we only have to look at the author of love, the One who saw us and saw in us a reason to die, consumed as he was by our want of love. We cannot look to ourselves for that kind of love, we cannot find it in another. We can only find it in him and then, miraculously, live it out.
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.