Girl meets boy. Boy falls in love. Their life is never the same.
This is the theme of a thousand poems and songs. It is the commonest thread in the experience of humankind, the most acquainted, most recurrent story in the world. We heard the stories, sometimes we are lucky enough to have our personal version that can rival Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Jack and Rose, Harry and Sally, and even Popoy and Basha.
“Full of promises” is a phrase that somehow can encapsulate love. Love, by its very nature, makes magnificent claims of permanence. As King Solomon understood, it is the most formidable force in the world. It irreversibly changes the human heart. It binds its victims with gentle cords and bands of sweet affection. Its grip is as tenacious as the grip of death itself. Once it lays hold of you, it never lets go. It follows you through all your ways, seeks you through joy and pain, and obliges you to live with open hands and heart. It takes possession of your entire life.
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The seed of love does not always grow aright. Unless properly watered and nurtured, it cannot, like Jack’s beanstalk, become a stairway to the sky. A couple has a lot of work ahead before either reaches the highest heights of love’s potential joys. The Carpenters duo go it right when they sang “We’ve only just begun.”
Hence, Love should be nurtured to remain.
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“Tis better to have love and lost, than never to have loved at all” is a quote popularized by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Novelist Samuel Butler however presented to all of us a slight alteration of the dictum: “Tis better to have love and lost,” he said, “than never to have lost at all.”
The Butler quote has made more apparent to an unobservant eye that love without the anguish of loss can be equally threadbare and shallow. Bereft of bereavement, love easily falls short of its divinely appointed goal. In this case, the slogan of most fitness gyms “no pain, no gain” is eminently applicable and inescapably a truism in love.
There is a good reason for this. In a perfect world, lives of people would be a matter of uninterrupted progress from degree of paradise and fulfillment to the next: a delightful stroll along a gently sloping upward path. This, obviously, is not our situation. We are mere mortals living in an imperfect world of hate and loss.
Clearly, amusement parks deceived us in “tunnel of love.” Truth is, love is more of a dangerous roller coaster, and this ride should post more clearly marked signs alerting us to what we can expect.
WARNING: This ride is not for the faint of heart. It can cause extreme stress due to unexpected twists and turns, dramatic climbs and drops, and sudden changes in direction. Expect some or all of the following:
Sudden loss of breath at the sight of her or thought of him
Dizzy spells in conjunction with giddy infatuation
Petty spats and major arguments requiring the courage to apologize and forgive
A possible broken heart caused by break up, unfaithfulness, or death
Radical transformation of your body, soul and spirit
Proceed at your own risk!
Truth is, there will always be loss. We will lose the person we risk loving. Not might lose them. It is a certainty. And it will hurt, badly.
For some, the loss comes before the first date in the form of the phrase “let’s just be friends.” The pain of losing cuts deep, even if we lose what we never really had.
For others, the pain comes through death after decades of bliss, or through parting ways after years of fighting. No matter when, how, or why – losing someone we’ve loved is one of the life’s most painful experiences. The question is, is the ecstasy of love worth the pain of loss?
But we must remember that those who tasted the heartache of loss welcome the comfort of restoration. And those who have known the grief of death yearn for the joy of resurrection.
Losing the object of our affections – whether due to separation, rejection, death, or divorce – gives us the unwelcome opportunity to experience God’s restorative grace. Unwelcome, but essential. That is because something must cause us to shift our focus from the gift no matter how praiseworthy to the Sovereign Giver.
Whether you are considering a relationship, struggling to keep one together, or anticipating the death of a lifelong partner, the journey of romance will, at some point, bring the painful sorrow of loss. And, if you are ready to receive it, the beautiful grace of redemption sets in.
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If hammers have feelings, they would pine for nails. That’s because hammers are made to play a purposeful role in the hands of a craftsman. Without nails, however, hammers can only destroy. In like manner, nails hold nothing in place until driven into the wood. And they cannot drive themselves into the wood.
Like many objects in the world, each of us needs a partner to discover and fulfill the ultimate purpose for which we were created. As God said after breathing life to Adam, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Maybe the greatest mystery in Christianity is that they worship a God in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I find this mystery as a teaching that solitude is never good because it is not like God.
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Let us understand that falling in love is something deeper, more primal, and far more all-encompassing than mere infatuation or sexual desire. It is ecstasy in the truest sense of the word: a sense of standing outside yourself. It involves astonishment and surrender. It is bliss and terror at the approach of another person who suddenly appears before you in a blaze of beauty. It means losing and finding your identity in someone else.
This is never easy. You see, every one of us is bent toward self-satisfaction, not self-sacrifice. That is why we tend to preserve the status quo, maintain our boundaries, and defend our rights.
The truth of the matter is that we don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable. And yet becoming vulnerable to another person is essential to the romantic journey as well as our self-maturity. The easy part of love is thinking about another person. We do that naturally, sometimes selfishly. The hard part is thinking less of oneself. Nothing is more unnatural or self-less.
Genuine love is something of which we can never have too much. As long as it is pure, as long as its course remain straight and true, love must eventually lead us aright.
We fully live only when we fully love. And we fully love only when we, like Christ, give ourselves away.
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The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything: a time to plant and a time to reap; a time to laugh and a time to weep; a time for mourning and a time for dancing; a time to win and a time to lose (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Even commonsense suggest that play follows labor and work is rewarded with rest. But when we thread the pathway of love, a different set of rules applies. The time to dedicate ourselves to the work of love – diligently and with thoughtful care is always now.
“Press on! Press on!”
It is a catchphrase meant for every lover in every circumstance of life. For it the romantic vision is worth serving at all, it is worth serving with diligence, intelligence, and intentionality…now.
Often recalcitrant, but always principled.