Saturday, August 17, 2013

Is Love Enough?

I've been thinking about the other side of love - and this time I'm talking about the human kind of love rather than the God kind of love.  Is loving another person enough to choose to be with them?  And again, I don't just mean in a primary relationship, but in friendships or other relationships as well.  Is loving another enough?

The answer for me is pretty simple.  No.  Or at least, it never has been for me.  Starting with primary relationships, I think about the men I've dated.  I was 29 when I got married, so there were a number of men that I dated before then.  And the reality is that I loved many of them.   Still, in the end I chose not to be with each of them - for reasons that had nothing to do with how much or how little I loved them.  Love wasn't enough.  It isn't enough.  It isn't enough for marriage, it isn't enough for partnering, it isn't enough for friendships.  There has to be more.  There HAS to be more.

Mutual trust is a key component on that list.  Mutual respect is a needed component as well. Appreciation, lack of abuse (verbal, emotional, as well as physical), willingness to work on the relationship, willingness to apologize, to take ownership of one's own stuff, to listen, to grow, to move - all of these are necessary in healthy relationships as well as an ability to understand one another, a compatibility in something - lifestyles, communication, interests, values - all of these are important.  Am I saying that if one of these is missing the whole relationship should be chucked?  No.  If there is real love, I believe these can be worked on together.  But I am also a little wary of this.  Too many people enter marriage (and maybe other kinds of relationships too?) hoping to change their spouses, to make them into the people they really want them to be.  That is dangerous and usually unsuccessful.  Asking someone to be something they aren't choosing to be on their own, that they are not striving for, that they don't see as part of themselves can end up with both people unhappy, unwhole, and losing out.  We are called to love each individual as the unique person that they are, for exactly who they are, as well as for who they are striving to be. That doesn't mean we don't confront or speak truth when someone hurts us.  But I think we have to approach those conversations without the expectation that the other person will change, and instead just the deep hope that together any challenges can be surmounted.

Love isn't enough in other ways....In the book, Leaving North Haven, author Michael Lindvall tells the story of a Presbyterian Minister dealing with a small and dying congregation in a small and dying community in Northern Minnesota.   In one chapter he shares about a boy who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition caused by a mother drinking alcohol while pregnant.  In this case, Jason had lagged behind his peers, had been completely impervious to direction, was not changed or impressed by any kind of discipline or correction because he could not live beyond the moment.  He had no internal moral compass, but coveted approval from anyone, which eventually led him into a bad gang of kids and finally to a lifetime jail sentence.  The parents who had adopted him loved him but could not overcome the condition he was born with.  The story continues, “Ardis, Jason’s adopted mother, had told me that some shocking percentage of FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) kids end up in prison, that they still loved their boy, but had come to accept the hard truth that they could never have heard when they were young, namely, that their love – unbounded and powerful as it might be – could not conquer all….The boy was an incarnation of all the things that cannot be fixed.  Perhaps his parents love had somewhat deflected his heedless course, but it was never enough.  Jason was Jason.  He was the emblem of that which we may fear the most; not evil, not even death, but the terrible truth that love cannot conquer all.  Like Jimmy and Ardis, Jason’s parents, I once struggled to believe that this was not so, namely, that love – faithful enough, deep enough, tireless enough, bottomless love – could not but win.  Now I sat in an eight-by-eight room in a prison across the table from what looked for all the world to be a loss….Some broken things just cannot be fixed.  There are broken people who cannot be healed in this world, neither by our love nor our cleverness….Some wounded souls heal; but some go to their graves pulled into the earth by darkness no mortal love can ever lighten.”  In those cases, we have to rely on God's love to pull those souls through.

Love is the pinnacle.  Loving others, loving God, loving self - these are the most important things we can do.  But in this human life, human love is simply not enough....  And again, we can only rely on God's love to be enough, when ours falls short.