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.

1 comment:

Julia said...

wow! that is a different perspective than i've ever really thought about before. interesting. and i admire your willingness to wait in order to uphold and preserve something truly special.