It’s here. The one day a year that makes single people feel even more single than usual. A day in which stores make a mint on chocolates and roses and stuffed bears because people feel the need to express their admiration for one another in even more evident ways than constant displays of public affection. That most-dreaded occasion that usually makes single Christian girls sigh and hope that one day too they will find love.
Most young women feel left out if their Prince Charming has not turned up yet, but I have never really been that way. I have never minded the day or the occasion or the implication that our ultimate ambition is to find love and be loved in return, as Moulin Rouge! would say. (Let’s face it, that love story and so many others we are fond of did not turn into a “happily ever after” situation.) I have never been what is commonly referred to in our household as a “sap.” When most of my friends in high school were reading The Scarlet Pimpernel and talking about how romantic it was that Percy kissed the spot where Margot’s foot fell after an argument, because it expressed the passion he held in his heart but could not express without revealing his true identity — I had to cram a pillow into my mouth to keep from roaring with laughter and waking up the entire household. I couldn’t help it. I reached that passage and what came out of my mouth was not, “Oh, how romantic” but “that is soooo stupid!”
I watched Bright Star the other day. Most of my romantic-minded friends adored it. It’s about poetry and emotion and passion and undying love that … well, ends abruptly in a tragic death. How could anyone not love it? How could anyone not be moved by it? How could anyone not want to read all of his poetry after that?
Um… apparently it is possible for such a person to exist, because you’re looking at her. When Fanny was up one moment and thought everything was beautiful and that stars shone in her lover’s eyes and then plummeted in the next to the depths of despair and asked her kid sister to go fetch a knife from the kitchen so that she might end her eternal suffering, I did not say, “Oh, how romantic!” No, not me. I said, “Oh, how bipolar!” They make medication for that. =P
One might be tempted to think I am a cold-hearted cynic but that is not true. I enjoy many “epic” love stories — some of which had happy endings and others that ended in sadness for one or both of the individuals involved. History is full of magnificent love affairs that enriched the lives of those who participated in them. Scripture has some classic love stories, although they are not love stories in the traditional sense, but tales of devotion. Our concept of love in modern times is passion, enthusiasm, instant attraction, sex. Sometimes not in that order, either. Movies attempt to convince us with an open-mouthed lip lock or tearing each other’s clothes off that two characters are “in love.” But love is about much more than just finding one another desirable. It’s about putting the other person first in all things, about a total lack of selfishness, about being able to overlook faults and character flaws and still finding them beautiful — even if they wake up in the morning and look like something the cat dragged in. Love is about adding wonderful things to someone’s life — and continuing to love when that flame of attraction has started to wane. (One might argue that in true love, which is actually a marriage of commitment and affection, the flame will never die because it’s based on more than just pretty features.)
There are times when love is adequately expressed in film. The Notebook comes closer than most because it shows not only the beginnings of a love affair but the very end — a painful acceptance of reality that life is full of ups and downs and that someday the person you loved with such passion in your youth might not know who you are. (However, I would argue that even that movie muddled the message … if Noah truly loved her, why did he spend time in another woman’s arms?) But most of the time, the most profound stories are rarely written about. I knew nothing about one of the greatest romances in history until John Adams came out. Then I started reading the letters that passed between them, ranging from poetic references to courtship and stolen kisses in the orchard to heartfelt missives on the death of children and their mutual hopes for their great nation. It was all there… passion in the beginning, continued affection and a love that grew and expanded over the years, in spite of their temporary separation of thousands of miles. I become teary thinking about near the end of the miniseries when Abigail muses, “We have been together now longer than we were ever apart.”
That love story brings me to tears, because it seemed so much deeper and true than anything I have read in fiction. It was real. It was earnest. It had occasional arguments and differences of opinion, but in the end Abigail was his ballast and he was her mooring. Their faith and their commitment to one another bonded them for life, and her death was perhaps the greatest and most tragic loss John had to face. It was so profound that it drove him to once more write to Thomas Jefferson, from whom he had been long estranged, because he knew only Jefferson, having also lost his soul mate, could understand the depths of such an immense and life-altering loss. Adams found the strength to continue living after the death of his wife because of his relationship with his dearest and oldest friend and his devotion to God.
Love stories surround and inspire us, but it is the rare love story that causes this unromantic heart to quicken and tears to come to my eyes. The story of the Adams’ is one of them and the other is quite a different but far more profound love story, the love story that makes all others possible. It is a story about an immortal being that came to earth to live among men, for he loved them so much that he wanted to separate them eternally from darkness and grant them the choice to be forgiven for their sins. It was not something he had to do but love caused him to do it anyway. He suffered the most brutal, agonizing death anyone can imagine — just so that others would have the chance to accept him. Their acceptance is not compulsive or a mandate. It is voluntary. But he loved us so much that he would have died for just one of us.
That, in my mind, is pretty amazing love story.
So if you’re married, enjoy your spouse. Buy them candy. Watch a movie with them. Give them a card. And remember that marriage is about more than attraction; true love grows with time and commitment.
If you’re single, don’t feel left out. I intend to buy a box of candy and eat it while watching a chick flick. I don’t need someone else to give me chocolate to enjoy it — chocolate is chocolate whether you pay for it or someone else does. Don’t worry about it. Your love story is still being written. For some of you, that means Mr. Right is just around the corner and for others it might mean God has something else but just as incredible in mind.
Whatever is ahead in our lives, I know one thing: God knows how to write an incredible love story.