Saturday, May 13, 2006

Love and hard work

One of the men I respect and like the most, and one man every young person should get to know, is Ravi Zacharias. I recently reread one of his books, I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah, and in the chapter titled "The Will To Do", he said:

The first thing to bear in mind is that we exaggerate the separation of the emotion and the will as two distinct faculties of operation--some kind of misshapen two-headed monster... I believe that a legitimate understanding of what is happening here can preserve the grand union between emotion and will.

Without the will, marriage is a mockery, without emotion, it is a drudgery. You need both.

In the same chapter Ravi talked about his initial disgreement with one of his professors that love is hard work, but after long years of being married, he assented that his professor was right. And like Ravi in his younger days, I find it incredible to think that loving another can be so hard to do. But then I looked around me and I started to see clues as to why that is true.

My parents celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary earlier this year. As a child who has the privilege of observing upclose the domestic interactions between two people over almost thirty years, I could vouch for at least one married couple that marriage is hard work most of the time, if not all the time.

While I do not know of a couple more devoted to each other than my parents, I also know that their marriage hasn't been smooth sailing through the years. But one image stands out strongly in my mind that serves as a hint to what marriage is really about. And that is the picture of my father serving up a hot cup of milk on the table beside my mother as she unwinds at the end of the day--even after thirty years of being married to the same woman, whose beauty and charm mustn't have stay the same as when they first met. Sometimes he would either forget out of busyness or abstain out of intentional withdrawal from a fresh argument. Other times he would make that deferential cup of milk despite all that. And that clearly demonstrates for me the role of the will in marriage, especially when witnessed over a long period of time.

Ravi continued by saying:

Chivalry in love has nothing to do with the sweetness of the appearance. It has everything to do with the tenderness of a heart determined to serve. That is the first hard lesson to learn.

And I believe my father learned that lesson well from the start. It couldn't have been a fortunate accident the way he treats his wife. Because I know my father's temperaments well, I know a lot of will is involved in his loving my mother throughout their marriage, no matter how loveable a woman such as my mother is.

I didn't know better. But that's my first hard lesson there, knowing that loving another means dying to ourselves--on a daily basis.


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