Monday, October 30 2006
"If the old fairy-tale ending 'They lived happily ever after' is taken to mean 'They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married', then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be 'in love' need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense--love as distinct from 'being in love'--is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be 'in love' with someone else. 'Being in love' first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it." Mere Christianity
The quieter, more mature, agape love lived out by those who are in marriage for the long haul is a very attractive thing, something to be greatly desired and sought after. When I was a young pastor in training an older pastor once described this kind of love to me in the following manner. He said, "If I was to have an affair I would have to bring my wife along because she is the only one who knows when I'm supposed to take my pills!"
Falling in love, even having an affair, can, I suppose, be exciting. But what is of far greater value is that love between "til death do us part" spouses which values the spouse's well-being as more important than one's own. I don't want to approach old-age and be sharing it with someone twenty years younger who can't even remember the television shows I watched as a child. I don't want to enter my sunset years with no one to watch the sunset with, no one who knows when I'm supposed to take my pills. I want to know the joy of that old, quiet kind of love Lewis talks about--the kind of love as comfortable as a well-worn slipper, as treasured as a member of my own body. And so I repeat to the wife of my youth the words of Browning:
"Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth" (Malachi 2:15).