Saturday, January 21, 2006
“Really? Great! Why is it perfect?” I asked, fishing for a compliment.
“Well it’s perfect for me that you’re slow,” he began. (Not quite the compliment I was looking for.) “If you were as, um, well as fast as I am then I wouldn’t have time to stop and catch my breath. And with my McArdles disease, my muscles need that rest time to get new energy. For example, when we’re skiing and I stop and wait for you, that’s exactly what I need so my muscles don’t get a constricture. Whereas if you were faster than me, I would keep going all the way down the mountain, which could cause me real problems.”
“Well I’m delighted to know that something that I’ve never liked about myself has some value.”
And truthfully I love the fact that sixteen years, almost to the day, after we met, we are still discovering new ways that we were truly “made for each other.” This incident reminded me of something that struck me after watching the movie “A Beautiful Mind”: the path of loving someone so well that you help them become all that God created them to be is a long one. The mathematician’s wife in the movie could have deserted him; indeed, in real life she did for a while. But if we give up on someone, we can hinder rather than help the process and we will miss out on much joy in the long run.
As I’ve been thinking on these things I came across a bit in Desiring God that drove the point home for me. A student of author John Piper's referred to someone whose experience of loving when there was no joy led her to say, "Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing." Piper responded:
Don't jump to the conclusion that there is no joy in things that are "harsh and dreadful." There are mountain climbers who have spent sleepless nights on the faces of cliffs, have lost fingers and toes in sub-zero temperatures, and have gone through horrible misery to reach a peak. They say, "It was harsh and dreadful." But if you ask them why they do it, the answer will come back in various forms: "There is an exhilaration in the soul that feels so good it is worth all the pain."As we’re surrounded by friends, and a whole world, who have bought into the belief that “love” is all about present gratification, I’m grateful for the reminders that loving someone is a long journey. (And I’m grateful that our journey is so full of joy.)
If this is how it is with mountain climbing, cannot the same be true of love? Is it not rather an indictment of our own worldliness that we are more inclined to sense exhilaration at mountain climbing than at conquering the precipices of un-love in our own lives and in society? Yes, love is often a "harsh and dreadful" thing, but I do not see how a person who cherishes what is good and admires Jesus can help but sense a joyful exhilaration when (by grace) he is able to love another person.
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