Write In Between

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Writer's Wednesday -- Paula Rinehart

In honor of St. Valentine's Day... a quote about love...

Love anything, C.S. Lewis said, and your heart will surely be wrung.

Love is costly--especially in marriage, the closest of relationships. The blending of two lives changes the whole landscape. Other cherished loyalties play second fiddle. Lifelong dreams may be seriously amended. Death or divorce will feel like someone ripped your skin off. Loving someone is the one venture in life in life in which the more you succeed, the more you have to lose. It is so tempting to keep your heart in reserve. To hedge your bets seems a reasonable choice in the face of things...

The capacity to love--to really give ourselves to someone in marriage, or even in a friendship--is what God made us for. He calls us, first of all, to risk our hearts with him... In letting ourselves be loved, we are able to love. As Romans [5:3-5] says:

We also exult in our tribulations, know that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured within our hearts. (emphasis mine)

My point is that the good work of God in our hearts is to free us to love others without all the costly preoccupation of having to pose and posture and protect ourselves. God would make us extraordinary lovers. In fact, he gives the world the right to judge if we actually know him, not by what we know about him, but by our love for each other. What a sobering thought! "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another," Jesus said. The greatest evidence that we know God is relational--specifically, the power to love against all odds.

Loving and being loved is easy enough to begin, but much harder to sustain. When I studied the ins and outs of family therapy, I discovered a concept that explains the difficulty in relationships, and also argues, indirectly, for the existence of God. The idea is that love in a close relationship between two people is like a two-legged stool. It is inherently unstable. There is too much disappointment to sustain the weight. So our tendency is to form a triangle, by turning to a third party in some way. We often pull in a child, or and in-law, and while that absorbs some of the pressure, it tends to cause more problems than it solves. Much of family therapy is about dissolving triangles and getting each party to relate directly to each other.

This observation facinates me. I think it reveals something of the mind and heart of God--that he designed marriage, and really any close relationship, as a true threesome. It's meant to be a triangulated affair with HIM as the fulcrum of the triangle, the one who bears the real weight. That there is someone to turn to when you are disappointed in a relationship is not just pretty theology, It's the actual truth, the original design. As Solomon wrote in the Book of Ecclesiastes [4:9-10,12],

Two are better than one... For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion... A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

In the truest sense, two people in a relationship are never enough. Love, on a human level, always proves incomplete. We need access to love greater than our own...

Indeed, it is so easy to withdraw or give up when the going gets hard. But a commitment to love means hanging in there.

Love anything, C.S. Lewis said, and your heart will surely be wrung. You would think that such bending and stretching--such suffering--would do you in, like an icepick chipping away until nothing was left. But risky love works by an inverse principle. Our hearts become larger in the process. The more we love,the more we are able to love. We are not depleted, but strangely replenished. Set free. Given more. As the psalmist says, "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart." [Ps. 119:32]

-----Paula Rinehart, Strong Women, Soft Hearts (Word Publishing, 2001)

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