Tag Archives: love

Together In the Dark Nights

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I remember being in the hospital as a young married spouse. I soon came to realize how dependent I was on my wife. She stayed too long with me in my room as I recovered. I kept trying to get her to go home. But as we reflected on the experience and in light of subsequent hospital stays (our own and those of friends and family) we have come to realize how essential it is to have someone close by for so many important reasons.

  • You need an advocate to help communicate (both ways) with hospital staff and doctors. Who can remember what’s going on at 5:30 in the morning when they make their rounds, or when you’re heavily medicated and roused out of your stupor to hear detailed instructions?
  • You need someone else to be there and constantly remind you with their presence that you really aren’t alone. Recovering in the hospital isn’t just a physical effort. Having another person there – or even a visitor, reminds you of the essential connections that keep you healthy and whole.
  • All those other people in your life need to practice their faith. Helping to take care of you, to keep in touch, to pray, to be consistently present in so many ways – it’s essential for your loved ones to have opportunities to live out their faith.

A recent report from the Pew Research Center tells us that the number one reason Americans choose to get married is because they are in love. Romantic love remains the primary motivating force behind marriage these days. This report is entitled, “5 Facts on Love and Marriage in America.” Love was the number one fact, number two on the list was that the number of Americans who are married is at its lowest number than ever before.

Together, do these two “facts” mean that love is getting scarce in America?

Maybe.

When it comes to real love, maybe people aren’t as certain as they thought. What if it’s becoming more difficult to tell what real love looks like? If that’s true, then isn’t it even more important for people who are in love to demonstrate what it looks like in the good, the bad and ugly of life?

Love is probably not so much an internal feeling that you catch like the flu as much as it is a series of everyday acts of unselfish sacrifice. Love is something you have to do and then keep doing.

It looks like our world still needs us to love one another.

“Real magic can never be made by offering someone else’s liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back.”  ― Peter S. Beagle

Never Let Go

Madeleine L'Engle reads with granddaughters Lena, left and Charlotte (now Charlotte Jones Voiklis). L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” became a favorite of young people, Voiklis says today, because “kids read it and understand that they are not being talked down to.” Illustrates KIDSPOST-WRINKLE (category l), by Moira E. McLaughlin (c) 2012, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, March 14, 2012. (MUST CREDIT: From Crosswicks)

“No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.”

Madeleine L’Engle

In this day and age – family is sometimes all you’ve got. So many around us don’t even have that. Fragments are all that’s left. L’Engle describes her marriage as a construction project that travels like a roller coaster up and down through life. I get the sense that she felt it was something worth hanging on to – a relationship like no other that couldn’t be found elsewhere. A relationship that mattered, for the sake of her children, for the sake of her spouse and always – through the long haul – for her own sake.

  • We sometimes get exasperated with one another too quickly. Family has to learn how to stick it out to the bitter end. Take a long road trip together or get snowed in during Christmas.  Make sure there’s only one bathroom.
  • When you’re feeling sorry for yourself is the best time to start doing something for others. Families are where our children learn to live by seeing examples. Show them how to give instead of take.
  • Call your adult children and ask them how you can pray for them this week. Be sure you pray and then follow up, keep following up. Tell your children how they can pray for you.
  • Treat each moment together as if it were you last. That helps you to put things into better perspective. It helps you to stay in the moment and not lose sight of what is really important – right now.
  • The most important activity that members of a relationship and families learn how to do is to “get over themselves.”

The building of relationships is an ongoing project of success and failure. All that matters is that we never give up. Marriage and family takes work – a task that each generation has to put it’s shoulder to with a committed heart. No half measures will work. It’s encouraging to read the words of famous figures who affirm what a difficult journey it often is. It’s typically very discouraging to see every single week another famous couple calling it quits and then rationalizing their failure as a sensible decision. Your children have been raised watching this “play” over and over again. It will compete with the story you tell with your own lives together.

Building a civilization is accomplished in each daily decision to . It’s never perfect, it’s but a love built on failure, it is a mystery that can endure.

“In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts…”Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Decisive Marriage

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“If I get married, I want to be very married.”
– Audrey Hepburn

A recent article in the NY Times summarizes some very important research about marriage. The findings are from the National Marriage Project report. One key finding that Times columnist Tara Parker-Pope wrote about was:

Sliding versus deciding. Couples who make intentional decisions regarding “major relationship transitions” are more likely to flourish than those who slide through transitions.

Apparently when couples treat their relationships as a big deal, when they decide to get married and go through with all the formalities, when they invest time, emotions and even wealth into their commitment to one another – their relationship tends to flourish.

Wow.

Don’t you love it when science confirms common sense? What we invest ourselves into ultimately grows in value. It reminds me of one those online dating commercials. The guy asks this woman how she goes about finding someone to date and she gets this confused look on her face and says, “well, I just bump into people.” Or something like that.

Casual relationships don’t produce lasting families or fertile habitations in which to nurture children. Cautious love is always ready to fall apart. It waits for it around each and every crisis. Rather than clinging together when the storms come, spontaneous lovers are always looking over their should to be certain the other person hasn’t jumped out of the lifeboat.

Our culture now values casual sex as a way to appease our appetites. Just sit down one evening and watch a little TV. Casual sex is the norm now. All stigma have been removed from sexual promiscuity. (I’m not even sure that it’s possible to be promiscuous anymore, regardless of how you behave.) There are no more sexual deviants in our popular culture.

But we have always had deeper needs for relationship, commitment, and security. There’s just not a selfish way to make these come true. Popular culture gives us a laugh and erodes our common sense. It’s a bag of potato chips. Wonderful to sit down with but we all know it’s never going to give us any nourishment. What’s on next?

Yet decisive relationships are never free from injury or pain. Thoughtful relationships can hurt us deeply whether they are investments into the lives of people, career, or dreams. These days we are so afraid to risk. We have witnessed too much brokenness and bitterness a la the freak show that is now reality TV.  Who wants to stick their neck out? Perhaps it will turn into a noose?

“If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”  – Clint Eastwood

But that’s what life is meant to be, a risk. Because if you hang on to your life, your hopes and every little dream, they will turn to dust. You have to stick your neck out. You have to dream big and never stop hoping.

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
– Langston Hughes

Secret Messages and a Possible Future

“No matter how far we come, our parents are always in us.”
Brad Meltzer

super-childOne day when your children are almost adults one of them will say something aloud that will knock you off your chair. He will remember something that you said, something that you didn’t even remember at the time saying, it was so quick and sudden and even sharp. But it was remembered. You will be amazed that he even heard much less remembered and can now recite those words.

“We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us. Even after we outgrow some of these others—our parents, for instance—and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live.”   – Charles Taylor

Your whole lives together you are communicating messages to your children. So much of that communication seems secret because (1) you don’t think anyone is listening (2) it didn’t seem that important at the time, and (3) maybe you said it so often that it became automatic. When your children grow up, those secret messages will often come to light. They will rise from the dead and you will see that they were either nourishing the soul or haunting the emerging self.

Social Psychology introduces to us the term Possible Selves. We think about our future self and either anticipate with optimism all that is possible OR we imagine a negative potential with a pessimistic future outlook. What kind of a person do you want to be next week, next year, in ten years? These days, how limitless/limited are all your possibilities?

When we build our future self we use all sorts of materials to put it together – including those secret messages our parents gave us.

  • If you didn’t get enough positive and inspiring secret messages (and deliberate parenting!) when you were growing up, research tells us that you should think about those experiences as a part of your distant past. Instead focus on the self you are now creating and the successes you have more recently experienced. This helps your autobiographical memory work for you rather than against you.
  • If you are a parent, relative or adult friend, think about what you are communicating in all the little words, gestures and expressions you pass on to the children in your life. Everyone is building a self. It’s a group project.

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”      – Henri Nouwen

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. – I John 3:16