It’s Valentine’s Day. Brian, a 41-year-old man married for twenty years, hovers at the window of the florist’s shop near his office. He wonders about ordering an arrangement for his wife Tanya. There was a time when he would’ve done it in a heartbeat; but things have gotten complicated. Over the course of their marriage, the couple has worked hard to ignore problems which, like the “little foxes” Solomon warns about (Song of Solomon 2:15), are tearing up their “vineyard.” They seldom talk without arguing, so they prefer to retreat into their individual safe zones. Brian, deciding that flowers won’t make any difference, leaves the window.
Heather and Jason, in their late 20s, have been dating for a year. They’ve discussed marriage, but Heather is wary. She’s watched the love relationships of several family members and friends begin so hopefully, then come to an end—some abruptly, nearly all painfully. Last month, she read about a growing trend among young adults—serial marriages, which involve a two-year trial period, after which the union can be renegotiated or dissolved. No drama, no expensive divorce if it ends…and the first one, often referred to as a “test drive,” is (of course) expected to end. Heather scans the landscape for firm ground, but it seems there is only quicksand.
Are love and commitment impossible for a couple to sustain until death parts them? Although there have always been challenges for those who choose to marry, I don’t believe I’ve seen before now such a fear of vulnerability. Yet there is no abiding, satisfying intimacy without it.
C. S. Lewis explains: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
We love best by loving God foremost.