Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Art of the Love Letter

I used to envy them their love letters. The type of letters you find in your great grandmothers desk, yellowed from the years, and cherished in her heart. Letters that said so eloquently how one sweetheart feels about another, and that though they are far apart, those feelings haven't faded.
These letters that often were the only connection between them at times. The only way they could connect across many miles, for the distance was too long to travel while one was away at school and the other at home, waiting, and counting down the days for the other to return. The long distance bill too expensive to make phone calls more than once on a rare occasion. Yet, theire love and care for one another didn't grow stale, for it is evident in every hand written word, that great care was given to the crafting of this sole way of communicating.
I used to envy them, because it seemed so romantic. The idea of holding out for a sweetheart who lives so far away must have made those moments together that much greater. It would be so hard to take someone for granted when the heartbreak of being apart for so long is still ringing in the back of your minds. It would be so hard to be viewed as an object, when things could fall apart at any moment. It must be so rewarding when the meticulous care paid off in the end.
I used to envy them.
The book I recently finished reading, which I recommend to everyone, was about modesty. The author spoke of Jewish law in relation to intimate relations between a man and his wife. How they weren't allowed to have sex during a woman's monthly cycle or the 7 days after. Though many people thought this was a horrible practice, implying that women are unclean during that time, when they obviously weren't, the author began to wonder if God intended more than that.
She began asking people who had made the decision to abide by this law in their marriage what they thought of it. Everyone she spoke to responded positively. Talking about how that momentary time apart, helped them to truly appreciate their spouse, and not view them as an object, but something to be cherished. One woman even said when her husband and her decided to follow these codes, it was during the time he couldn't be intimate with her, that her husband learned the art of intimacy in other ways... calling her at work just to make sure she was having a good day, or sending her flowers. One person went as far as to say that every time they had sex after that time apart, felt like the first time, like they were learning each other all over again.
So the author poses the thought, maybe God had deeper intentions than we think about the idea of restraint and modesty, even in marriage.
This lead me to think that if it's true, that the longer you wait for something, the better it is when you finally have it, maybe there is something to the art of the love letter. That maybe their is a beauty that our fast paced consumer society is missing out on. Where relationships are as easy as going to the bar for the night, and where we go through a drive through to get our momentary fix of grease and sugar.
The Song of Solomon continually repeats this phrase "do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires" as it is speaking of this relationship between the lover and the beloved. She is longing for her lover to come back to her. However, there is this running theme of waiting. Of not pushing for love before the appropriate time. The physical embraces between them don't even enter the picture until the very end of the chapter. The book is mainly about the longing and desire to be together, yet knowing the time isn't right.
I used to envy the love letters, the restraint, the modesty that accompanied life then. However, I never understood the pain. I never knew what it would be like to want to be with one person every moment, and only have letters and phone calls. I never knew what it would be like to want to wake up and know that you can see that person, only to realize, you can't... not yet.
Needless to say, I don't envy the love letters any more, however, my solace is this, that if the restraint and modesty makes the relationship all the better, than that is what I want. Nothing shallower. The depth will be worth the heartache. The restraint far better than the compromise for something less than love at the appropriate time. I think I can wait for that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Falling or Growing: Metaphors of Love

There has been an oft used statment for the description of infatuation and romance, which is the term "falling in love". Though it is used often, and for valid reason I wonder if it is the best term to describe what I want.
Where falling in love is accurate, is in that infatuation, heart beating fast, palms getting sweaty, can't think about anything else stage of a relationship. Where that person is forever imbedded into the recesses of your mind which makes it difficult to do even the most simple of tasks.
However, falling in love also describes a lack of control or work. It isn't that hard to fall. In fact, you really don't have to do anything, but turn the wrong way, run too fast, ignore a wet floor sign, or wear shoes that are too big. It takes little commitment or time, because once your falling, there is very little that you can do about it.
The scary part about falling in love is, what happens when you stop falling? Obviously, as anyone who has sky dived will tell you, the rush and adrenaline are great at the moment, but if that parachute were to malfunction or not be there... well you can't even ask that person about the rush, because the only thing that matters at that point is the crash.
I've experienced both the fall, and the crash of "love". It was such a drastically horrifying experience, that I don't think I ever truly want to fall in love again.
So when I read the other day a different metaphor in relation to the process of love, I gravitated towards it. It is the concept of not falling in love, but growing in love.
Growing in love fills in so many of the holes left by falling in love. First, in order to grow something their must be a deep foundation. Prior to even planting something, the soil must be prepared. Thus, this metaphor is a great tool in seeing how if I seek to have a healthy growth of love, I have to make sure that I am grounded how I need to be, even before a seed of a relationship is even in the picture. This means that I must be a healthy person, that I must be doing the things that a healthy individual does. Then, as a seed of relationship is planted, it must first grow deep roots. Before a plant ever grows up, it grows deep. Thus, there must be great care, time and patience, as the roots dig deep into the already prepared soil. Then as the plant grows it takes work. It must be nurtured, cared for, and valued. At times, weeds must be pulled away from the plant in order to keep it thriving. Sometimes the rain doesn't fall the way it should, so more time energy must be spent running from the water source to the plant to make sure it doesn't shrivel and die. At times the rain doesn't stop pouring, and the roots must be deep enough to hold on through the storms.
The metaphor sounds so much more like a truly substantial relationship than "falling" does. Though there is far more work, though things are more difficult, and it takes a lot more time, generally the results of growing a flower, or a vegetable are a lot more rewarding than breaking your arm after the momentary adrenaline of a fall down the stairs.
I think that's what I want, to grow in love, because the heartbreak of falling has taken so long to get over, and I would love to see the beauty of the flower that grows, over time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I wish I was Amish

The other day I was sitting in the airport. Since moving, I sit in airports a lot. Exhausted after a long weekend, I ordered a starbucks and sat reading a book waiting for my flight. I NEVER buy starbucks, except for on very very rare occasions. On this particular day, it hit me what I had done... I had bought into the commercialism and I looked like everyone else sitting in the airport.
Am I different than these other people? I should be. After all, that's what a life in Christ means. The Jewish understood that, they were completely seperated from the culture around them. They were so different the boys and men even had a small operation (I don't think I need to go into detail, you know what I'm talking about). Often times Jewish people wouldn't even go into the Roman market, because in order to do so you had to pledge your allegiance and worship to Caesar and recieve a mark on your hand (that's what it talks about in Revelation). Thus, they had to find alternative ways to buy and sell things, and trust that God would provide for them.
Did some of them pledge allegiance to Caesar? I'm sure they did, after all it would be a whole lot easier. It's easier just to bow to the regime around you, than stand out and be the odd one, however, we aren't called to bend to what's easier, we are supposed to be a "peculiar people".
Thus, people should see me as different. The very clothes I wear should be different. Is it showing a deep love for God and others, or am I supporting the materialism that pervades and infilitrates the minds of America? The food and coffee I buy should be different. Does it show a deep love for God and others, or am I supporting the rich getting richer while the poor are getting poorer? Do I support fair wages, or corrupt corporations?
Some people have told me that participating in systemic evil is inevitable, and though I believe that to an extent, I don't think that means we lay down and do nothing. Isn't our God bigger than the evil that pervades our culture? Aren't we called to be His hands and feet to the world?
Thus, as I sat in the airport I decided I wish I were Amish, or an Orthodox jew, or even Muslim, not for their belief systems, but for the fact that when you see them, there is absolutely no denying that they are set apart for a specific person. How they dress, what they eat, how they interact with others, is all influenced by their belief system. How much more should my dress, my food, my lifestyle, and my interaction with others be deeply influenced by a relationship with the creator of the universe? How much more should I look different because I have been saved by an amazing grace?
Then I had to ask myself, if the church is supposed to look so different from the world, be an eschatological community which is the closest you can get to heaven on earth... why then do we strive so much to look like everyone else?