One of my favorite stories from my father's ministry is about the time when he was counseling a young couple preparing for marriage.
"You know in wedding ceremonies when the bride and groom each take a candle and light a third candle together saying that now their lives have become one?" Dad asked them.
"Yes," the couple say together, eyes all round and dewy, hearts all-a-twitter in their rush of love and commitment.
"Well," says my father, "That's bullshit."
The bride will remain her own person and the groom will remain his. No amount of love and commitment will make them into a composite entity.
We like to believe in happily ever after scenarios. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl engage in comical moments of sexual tension. Girl misunderstands zany circumstance and leaves boy. Boy runs after girl and publicly announces his love for her. Girl pauses dramatically to cause a few more moments of satisfying sexual tension before flying into boy's arms. Onlookers cheer. Everyone lives happily ever after. They never add what happens after the happily ever after. Girl finds that boy is inordinately pleased by the sound of his own flatulence. Boy discovers girl's latent self-loathing perfectionism. Girl meets boy's mother and finds her intolerable. Boy realizes that boy's mother is exactly like girl, tells girl so and then finds himself sleeping on couch.
And that's just for starters. Eventually the relationship will involve the inclusion of people the boy and girl love together- friends, relatives, children. And eventually boy, girl, and related loved ones will suffer tragedies, illnesses, set-backs and anxieties, addictions, disappointments, and death. Such is life. Falling in love doesn't shield one from sadness. In fact, falling in love probably will magnify it since now in addition to suffering through one's own fears and sorrows, one also has to participate in the suffering and sorrowing of others. Is it even worth it? Yeah. Why? I don't know. It just is. You deal with it.
I notice that people treat spirituality like a love story. When we find the image of the Divine that makes us fall in love, we want it all to work out perfectly. We want a happily ever after. We want God to be the guy on the white horse who always shows up in the nick of time sweeping us off our feet and carrying us to bliss. Well, good luck with that. When my husband was making deliveries of heavy appliances to evangelical Christians, they told him that if he only gave himself over to the Lord, all his physical labor would be easier. Despite what the evangelists said to my husband when he was delivering their big-ass refrigerators to their boiled hot-dog stinking homes, God will not make your physical burdens lighter. God will not save you from disease and death. God will not make you smarter, richer, thinner, or less addicted to cigarettes. We still have to obey all the rules of the world we live in. Gravity still applies. So does the need to use your head.
Bad things happen to good people. All the time. Praying doesn't change that. God doesn't save kids from dying because people prayed real hard any more than God makes kids die because their parents didn't pray hard enough. Human reason, justice, and hard work save us. Except when they can't. That happens too. To quote from the Princess Bride, "Life is pain."
"Well," you may say to yourself, "This was a very negative blog post. What's the point?" I guess my point is this: I believe that we fall in love because we witness that of God in someone else and feel called to commune with it. I'm not just talking about romantic love, but all kinds of love. Sure, there are the purely hormonal, biological, instinctive and selfish motivations of our attractions, loyalties and connections to partners, parents, and offspring. There's nothing wrong with that. That's how we survive. But there is something more there too. I'm convinced of it. Each time I fall in love with another human soul, my love for the Divine magnifies. Each time I more fully realize the uniqueness and difference of each beloved Life I encounter, the more deeply I rejoice in the Vastness of the Ineffable.
That's a recipe for Joy but not for happiness. Loving more deeply means deeper and greater pain. Only when we keep our love of the Divine at the selfish, hormonal swooning stage do we walk around in bliss . Let the love deepen and you'll find the Divine is the most tragically beautiful relationship of all because eventually, you'll be asked to love more and more and more until your whole being is caught up in it and your heart breaks wide open so that you cannot help but feel the raw tenderness and wild longing that has been drawing us to each other and toward the Source since the beginning of time. Pull back the veil and we reveal Darkness darker and Brilliance brighter than our little human minds can bear. So why not leave the veil unturned? Why not shield ourselves from falling so desperately, helplessly, foolishly in love with a Divine Spark that we know will burn? I don't have a clue. Wish I did. It hurts like hell, but that's the way the Story goes.