Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Marriage is like dancing with no music.  There is still an art, and still the beauty; there is also that dimension of more going on that you have in dancing.  But instead of the music being enough to give a girl an idea of where life is going, there is none; she must simply follow.  Give and take, go and come.  Trust.  Responsibility.  Cry for help.  Confidence.  Smile her delight.  Swing out, spin in.  Submit.  Dance. 
 
The hobbits watch in dreamlike fixation as a woman beautiful beyond their experience weaves her way around the table, in and out of the kitchen, gracefully dodging a man equally unique to the hobbits: big, clumpy, capering and energetic.  Styles so different, the two manage to make a fascinating dance of contrast and complement. How do they make it work?  What force prevents collision? 
 
Tom Bombadil sang about his lady when he thought no one was listening, and when he knew they were following, straining for his every word.  He praised her as beautiful and trusted her to be ready with hospitality.  Brave and free, each with few friends, the couple shared life and interests with each other.  Perhaps many nights were spent crafting a tale to spell his lady.  He gave her gifts and she did the washing.  They each remained who they had been before they met, but they sacrificed things and changed also, making a brand new life together.  When the hobbits asked Goldberry about her husband, she spoke with quiet respect, “He is the master.”  Perhaps there is no satisfying explanation of Tom Bombadil because he was a man who needed to be known rather than described.  There are no memorized steps of the dance with him.  Their house is full of the comforts of community: ready beds, generous tables, and long conversation by the fire.  Goldberry and Tom knew the value of relationship. 
 
Main characters in Lord of the Rings are unmarried.  Nine companions, the fellowship of the Ring, had the freedom to risk their lives and tramp across the world because they were not married.  A man or two was moving towards marriage, dreaming of the woman he’d left behind.  Tolkien was a real romantic, the kind who understood the pull of adventure and of chivalry, as well as of courting and of marriage.  This last is not too common in literature, that real married couples would be glimpsed in story and lifted up for their simple virtue and hard submission.  Immensely happy in marriage to Edith himself, this author did not shy away from representing marriage in his stories. 
 
Another example is found in The Fellowship of the Ring before the hobbits encounter Tom Bombadil.  Still in the Shire, they meet a hobbit couple, the honored Mrs. Maggot and her intimidating husband, Farmer Maggot.  It’s a dreadful name to inherit, let alone acquire, so Mrs. Maggot must have loved her husband, and made the most of it.  She too embodied hospitality.  Spin in.  Feeding a large working farm and family of sons and daughters, she didn’t mind at all to include three hungry strangers at her table, presenting them with heaping helpings of farm fare, mushrooms, and good homebrew.  Farmer Maggot was a good provider, a defender of his property – maybe less because of what it grew than of whom it harbored.  And when in the service of doing what was right he risked his own safety for newfound friends – this round hobbit reminiscent of the American rednecks – his wife stood at the door and cried out for her husband to be careful.  Swing out.  This isn’t just something people say.  Do you see women encouraging their husbands to do the right thing even though it is dangerous?  Do you hear people in unhappy marriages nervous about the other’s safety?  No, it comes from a heart of love, natural – yes, and common but only because the simple heart of marriage is common.  Isn’t that how it should be? 
 
There are other examples, men and women whose wedded bliss was interrupted by wars, disease, or accident.  Take Frodo’s parents.  Rumors ran wild that Drogo didn’t get along with his wife, and that she thought his girth was too large even for a hobbit.  They died together, though, out boating – and as far as the Gaffer was concerned, that was their only crime.  It left Frodo to the wildness of youth, an orphaned rascal living with an extended family too big to take good care of him and to teach him responsibility.  This again was the implication given by the sturdy gardener, who had carefully raised his own son under his eye and apprenticeship.  What an unlikely beginning for the Ringbearer, whose sense of responsibility called him into the darkness, surrendering forever the possibility of home!
 
Elrond’s marriage does not appear to have been happy.  His wife early (well, thousands of years into their relationship) grew weary of their home and left.  Why didn’t she stay for him?  Why didn’t he go with her?  Should he have gone, the Halfelven whose work was so large in preserving the Middle Earth for which his father had risked much more than happiness and comfort?  Should she have stayed, enduring without music, just for the following?
 
Many characters seem to have lost their mothers or fathers early, including Samwise, Frodo, Aragorn, Boromir & Faramir, and Eowyn & Eomer.  It was a hard time, and even marriage did not guard against sorrow and loss.  This is evidence that Tolkien’s ideal of marriage was not unrelated to the real world in which he moved.  His stories exemplify love and commitment in the midst of the hard times to which we can relate. 
 
Another splendid example of the exertions of marital love and the roles each person takes is the marriage of Earendil and Elwing.  Earendil, on behalf of his people, sought to reach the undying lands and plead for the help of the Valar.  He was lost at sea, hopeless, when his elven wife flew to him in the form of a white bird with a silmaril at her breast, and, lighting the way to Valinor, saved her husband and delivered his mission from doom.  He initiated risk, and she accepted the separation and the danger.  In this story the husband led the way on a mission to save the world (as all husbands should), and she supported him with strength of her own and encouragement.  I believe the story goes that the couple now above Middle Earth sails till time ends, in the heavens, her silmaril doomed to light the way for all men as the evening star. 
 
Many people in Tolkien’s tales are related to Luthien and Beren, who stole that silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.  Luthien was the daughter of Thingol (a high elf, one of the first to see Valinor) and Melian (a Maia).  Their marriage is another inspiration.  King Thingol loved Melian and worked his whole life to make her happy.  But he also respected his bride and took her advice.  This position Melian wielded to moderate her husband’s temper, thereby making him the best man, father, and king that he could be.  Ruling together, they preserved and protected a kingdom of peace, beauty, and, until fate started to unravel the spell of protection Melian had woven around Doriath, of justice. 
 
Thingol and Melian’s marriage is somewhat reminiscent of Celeborn and Galadriel, both strong and wise, with strong claims to the leadership of their people.  Yet they ruled peacefully side by side, together attending councils of the wise.  Again they both offer hospitality, but are cautious to protect their country against harm, for love both of land and of friends inside.  All the wives in Tolkien are beautiful, and all the husbands are valiant.  But not all the men are wise, nor are all women hospitable.  Celeborn and Galadriel represent together the best of Tolkien’s ideal.  They are happy and sad, serious and celebratory.  They are wise and strong, beautiful and kind.  People love them and follow them, not only in war, but also in peace.  Memory is important, and yet there is always curiosity to meet new things.  And so it ought to be in marriage.  Such I believe was Tolkien’s experience. 
 
My favorite marriage in Tolkien is one that hadn’t yet taken place.  Eowyn was independent; she was not free – not because she was a woman at home, but because she wanted things impossible for her to have.  Faramir pushed, and she took a small step away.  He pulled and she came close.  Before she knew what was happening, the simple steps were increasing in difficulty until she cried out, “My hand is ungentle!”  The princess grew frightened in the face of love and submission, though she had stood proud as the shieldmaiden of her king even against an enemy as terrible as the Lord of the Nazgul.  She cried out to one who seemed to know what he was doing, who was leading her into a place where she was less confident, where her only choice was to follow.  And the crying out was trust.  Her heart changed, or at last she understood it.  She chose freedom, stepped willingly away from her independence, and chose to love, like her partner, to see things grow well.  “Then I will wed with the White Lady,” he laughed.  She smiled her delight, and on the wall of the city their hands met and clasped, and they faced darkness and light together. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn 

Read Full Post »

Friday was one of those days in one of those weeks from one of those months.  My closest friends are out of the country or on their way out.  One will be gone for a whole semester, to the blissfully romantic Oxford, the Oxford in England, full of history and literature, thought and conversation.  In England there is rain, there is beauty, there is architecture, there are accents!  What’s more, she’s going to study worldviews in a small class of 9 Christian young men and young women, doing life with them.  Already she sends home emails reveling in happiness beyond her expectation. 

On Friday I was feeling rather alone and untraveled.  Autumn is here with an air of adventure, and none has knocked on my door.  But God is quite the gracious Giver of good gifts.  He blessed me with hours of conversation in the evening.  Friends gathered and the casual conversation was whether God changed His mind, and the way He ordains intercessors for us against His wrath.  Then we officially talked about jealousy, but we didn’t say much on that topic.  What actually happened led into a discussion on grace and glory, predestination and the rights of God versus the rights and capabilities of man. 

Even though we didn’t delve into jealousy, our text was 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Charity suffereth long and is kind.  Charity envieth not; Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.”  Charity, or LOVE, does not envy.  It is not jealous.  Love is the call of all Christians towards their neighbors.  Jealousy prevents us from entering into their happiness in the way Paul describes in Romans 12.  The simple reminder that love is my call was enough to convict me of my attitude towards my friend.  So I decided to rejoice with her.  (I really am absolutely delighted for her experiences, and excited for their impact!) 

But the grace and the lesson didn’t end.  Deciding to rejoice with her, I was yet challenged by my friend’s confession of happiness.  Her email bubbled over with enthusiasm for life and people, and happiness at being where she was.  Once she even wrote she can’t remember the last time she was so happy.  When was the last time I was simply happy?  What did it look like? 

The privilege and delight of seeing a friendly face can light my face with a smile, and untroubled happiness.  Knowing God is in control and He’ll take care of the details is blessed happiness.  Knowing I am blessed is reason to be happy.  And I am so blessed.  So I set out to be happy. 

Saturday I went to Steeling the Mind Bible Conference, put on by Compass Ministries.  I imagined the happy me, which is much easier to live out when brought to mind!  Should I see a friend, I would be happy.  Should I spend the day with my dad alone, I would be blessed.  Should I get encouragement in my walk with God, I would have assurance that He was heeding my days.  And He was.  He let me know. 

For example, the second-to-last speaker was a woman raised as a Muslim.  One of her many points was that Muslims live in fear, not only of non-Muslims, not only of “monsterous” Jews, but even of each other.  Women obviously fear men, who have essentially absolute power over them.  They also fear the envy of others, by which the jealous party would, they superstitiously believe, put a curse on them: the evil eye.  Envy and fear of envy separated the community, leaving no room to trust anyone.  Jealousy is a serious issue. 

In the British Isles, there is rain.  Here the past week we have had rain more days than not.  Friday night it rained.  Saturday night, too.  I’m afraid to sleep for missing some evidence of God’s grace reminding me that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  But even sleep is a peaceful, cozy gift. 

This morning at church we watched part of Beth Moore’s teaching on the Blessing of Asher.  Asher is a Hebrew word translated either Blessed, or Happy.  Leah named the second son of her handmaid Asher, after years envying Jacob’s love of Rachel and jealousy over his affection.  At last she simply named a son “happy,” content and blessed, going forward straight on the way, fruitful.  And Beth Moore taught us not to be responsible for the happiness of others (or of ourselves!);  happiness is a gift by the grace of God, so we ought to seize our happy moments, with gratitude. 

A friend blessed me with a compliment when I needed the encouragement, and her husband even offered to help diagnose my poor car whose Service Engine Soon light has been on and off for over a year (but I haven’t found a good mechanic to fix it).  My day was really too amazing. 

After church I sat in a meeting of youth leaders, pondering the high school girls small group of which I’m a part.  And I realized that I’ve been running around, forgetting to be God’s vessel, forgetting the blessing it is to share life with these ladies, forgetting that when I walk with God, I will want to and be able to connect with the girls in love.  There doesn’t have to be a formula or a schedule.  If I want to see them, this won’t be a burden.  In my life I’ve observed that happiness (and pain at times, and many other things besides) comes through people, through fellowship, through getting deeper into relationships and community.  Do you realize what release I remembered and reclaimed? 

Finally, on my way to visit my aunt in Greeley, CO (and my grandparents and a few cousins, an uncle and another aunt), I was riding in our big, truck-like van, watching light glint off the ring that reminds me of God’s presence and claim on my life.  So often I ask Him for things, but today I thought of the way characters pray sometimes in biblical dramatization novels by the Thoenes: “Blessed are You, O Adonai, who…”  So I started.  God is blessed for being, for doing, for giving.  Blessed is He for knowing the end from the beginning.  Blessed is He for ordaining good works.  Blessed is He for holding my friends in His strong hands.  Blessed is He for being my sure refuge and comfort.  Blessed is He for the blood He shed, and for reminding me of His faithful covenant through the Lord’s Supper this morning.  Blessed is He for the celebration that the Lord’s Supper is and represents, the community of saints waiting for the Beloved.  Blessed is He for hearing my prayers.  Blessed is He for being Almighty. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I love Enchanted.  I like the subtle spoof it is on earlier Disney movies (even Lady and the Tramp!).  The music is fun, and I like the premise “What if the heroes and heroines of Disney Fairyland were in the real world?”  Everyone told me before I saw it that it was a funny movie, but I think it is romantic.  Plus philosophically I see a lot of good messages, for a change, on love and marriage.  By way of disclaimer, before I enumerate my appreciation for Disney’s new take on romance, I thought I’d tell you the 5 things I really didn’t like about Enchanted. 

 Oh, uh, Spoiler Alert.  Obviously.   

Enchanted’s weaknesses:

1.  Giselle’s clothes aren’t modest.  The situation with the shower is less modest, as conduct and visually.  At one point she puts her hand very unnecessarily on Robert’s chest.

 

2.  A tiny bit of crass humor and adult insinuation (of the kind that kids can rationalize as meaningless).

 

3.  The evil in the movie is scary and occult, using spells, fire, smoke, dragons, and old hags. 

 

4.  Morgan uses her dad’s emergency credit card for a shopping trip. 

 

5.  Robert, who has invested in a 5 year relationship with Nancy and was intending to propose, abandons her (with her permission) for a woman he was basically falling in love with while still giving her the impression he intended to marry Nancy.  Giselle was set to marry Prince Edward, and promises him she will return to Andalasia though she is having doubts.  She, of course, ends up trading him for the New York lawyer.  Robert puts himself in a tempting situation by taking Giselle for a walk, a boat ride, a carriage ride, and pizza; finally he dances with her.  There’s an issue of faithfulness and honesty here. 

 

Enchanted on Marriage:

1.  Dreaming

Giselle starts by dreaming of her prince.  She has an ideal of simple romance, handsome, present, and royal.  It makes her sing, gives her something to talk about, and gets her through lonely days in the forest.  Her perspective nearly gets her into a marriage that, the day after happily ever after, isn’t going to be much of anything. 

 2.  Kissing

In Enchanted, kissing is the activity of marriage or those who will be married.  It is symbolic of permanence and commitment.  Near the beginning of the first song, Giselle sings that “before two can become one, there’s something you must do.”  This is an allusion to the story in Genesis, Jesus’ words, and Paul’s quotation – in the Bible!  Compared to most movies, or even Disney movies, Marriage is given high priority. 

 3.  It’s You Duet

Because of Giselle’s shallow perspective on true love, when Prince Edward rescues her singing on his horse, she immediately assumes he’s the one.  He also looks like the statue she made based on her dream.  With little explanation, the Prince, who already heard her song, decides they’re made for each other (note the predestination) and should get married in the morning. 

 4.  “Strengths and Weaknesses”

Robert and Nancy’s take on marriage is slow, thoughtful, and calm.  They’ve analyzed each other, have a functional relationship, and think they’re ready to take the next step.  He does seem to care whether they break up.  She trusts him.  But they each value things that the other does not represent for them: romance, emotion, and fun, for example. 

 5.  Separating Forever and Ever

Robert is a divorce lawyer, bummer of a job for a movie about happily ever after.  But he’s put out of a job by Giselle’s entrance.  Separating forever and ever is a terribly sad thing, she cries.  She reminds a couple contemplating divorce that there are attributes of their spouse that they value and won’t find anywhere else.  They hold each other’s hearts, and that brings responsibility. 

 6.  Dating

Dating is getting to know someone before you marry them.  It usually involves a nice activity like dinner out or a movie or museum.  You exchange information on your interests.  It is good to note that Robert and Giselle come from opposite perspectives, each teach each other something, and meet in the blissful middle.  Robert says most normal people date.  I suppose that’s true.  And if by date you really mean know them before you marry them, I’m ok with that.  Courtship and friendship pre-wedding would fall under this category for the purposes of the movie. 

 7.  “I Always Treated Her Like a Queen”

True love is not about manipulation or exchanging favors.  Love does not worship the other person in a way that denies truth.  A person must offer him or her self in love, not some trampled pantomime of what the other person wants.  Honesty and sincerity are important. 

 8.  “I Will Save You”

True love isn’t the only kind.  Enchanted portrays the love of friends and children as equally valuable.  Marriage isn’t this self-contained, self-sustaining relationship that comprises one’s whole world.  It is meant to be in community and to create additional community.  Chip is a faithful friend to Giselle, relentlessly risking his life to save her.  Her prince actually shows a great deal of chivalry in going after her despite no real interest in her as a person.  And Morgan’s relationship as a step-daughter is an important measuring stick of Giselle’s right-ness for Robert.  Morgan is part of the picture, and her needs are valued. 

 9.  Pain, Risk, Good Times with the Bad

At a later scene, the couple once pondering divorce is happily reunited, willing to work through their problems.  Reality has its problems, but that doesn’t mean you give up.  Reality is worth sticking around for.  This is a theme that will resonate with both Robert and Giselle.  Robert got burnt by his first marriage, and is leery of emotional investment again.  The hopeful outlook of his client renews his willingness to try for more.  Giselle, her dream dance interrupted by Nancy’s previous claim, is seduced by the offer of forgetting all the memories of love she won’t get to share forever and ever with Robert.  The woman was deceived, and she ate.  But she learns she was wrong. 

 10.  “So Far We are So Close”

These are the lyrics Robert sings to Giselle.  She’d been encouraging him the whole movie to express his true feelings in the convincing mode of a ballad, and now he’s singing to her without realizing exactly the import of his actions.  The gist of his confession is that they’ve been through a lot together.  He’s been angry and frustrated and confused, and she’s been angry and confused and conflicted.  Now they know each other, their strengths and weaknesses, not through analysis.  No, they know each other through experience.  They came from opposite points of view near to the middle of true, happily ever after love… so close. 

 11.  “Most Powerful Thing on Earth”

Is true love the most powerful thing on earth?  Song of Solomon says love is as strong as death.  But God’s love conquered even that last enemy (by Christ dying).  Does a kiss change evil?  Are there still things you have to fight?  Yes.  Love is powerful.  It does not, however, preclude a battle and a reality of pain and effort, falling and catching.  Perhaps it does guarantee the ending. 

 12.  Happily Ever After

The credits song, Ever Ever After, says that happily ever after can be true if you open your heart to be enchanted.  I really don’t like the credits song.  It missed all the good strong points of the movie.  Happily ever after is portrayed in Enchanted as marriage.  It is relationship, forsaking all others, and embracing a new life with determination, enthusiasm, and joy. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I asked a while back what was the truest expression of love.  Fiction and stories have always served to teach me.  They make me think, and ponder scenarios beyond my experience.  When I don’t have a book that perfectly suits a question I’m considering, I (sometimes consciously) devise a story of my own.  That is the setting for the question I asked. 

My initial scenario was a man and woman in love under oppressive circumstances who had several options: 1.  Part and give each other up.  2.  Part promising to be faithfully and exclusively devoted to one another despite separation.  3.  Marry and face permanent endangerment or death as a result.  So the questions are: 1.  Is it better to sacrifice and let each other possibly find love elsewhere?  2.  Is it more faithful to the feelings and nature of love to continue feeling for each other when all chance of enactment is past?  3.  Is consummation so important to love that you would risk each other? 

Suppose you’re in A Walk to Remember.  Do you marry when your marriage is guaranteed to be short-lived?  What if you’re in Pirates of the Caribbean?  Do you marry if you know (which was, I allow, not the case in the movie) that the relationship will consist of one day in 3652?  You’re a mother in Nazi Germany who has a chance of sending her children away to safety, but she’ll never see them again.  (supplied by my mom): Or should missionary parents endanger their kids by discipling them at home or protect them by sending them to boarding school?  Then again, is life and safety more important than a relationship with your parents? 

Michael Card wrote “God’s only way is to give and to die.”  I wasn’t only asking about romantic love.  But I confess I’ve always got that under consideration, being interested in the subject.  Seriously, I can see the usefulness of reading all the relationship books.  Aside from personal application, I believe such subjects are fundamental points in the development of one’s relationship with God and others.  Plus it’s Valentine’s Day, so I have an excuse – for today. 

Gratification is doing whatever the feelings of love motivate you to do in a moment.  This promises the most instant satisfaction, but it might be deceptive.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like hugging someone and decided I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or more deeply would rather not. 

Consumation would be a more long-term, planned and waited for climax of a relationship.  It doesn’t necessarily indicate commitment, but it is a fulfillment of something hoped and worked for.  What is the consummate activity of friendship, or of parenting?  For some friends it might be meeting, or reading journals or going on a trip together.  In Butterfly Kisses, Bob Carlisle indicates that the peak of parenting is when his daughter is given away in marriage.  Consumation might be understood as the “truest expression of love” by definition.  It might be too specific, though.  Let’s keep exploring. 

Commitment is, in this case, synonymous with faithfulness and loyalty.  True love inspires commitment.  There’s no greater gift to offer a person than your eternal devotion.  Then again, what if the love is unrequited?  What if there is eternal separation to match the eternal commitment?  Then the commitment doesn’t mean anything. 

Sacrifice.  Obviously there are different levels of sacrifice.  A guy who sees a romantic comedy instead of the latest Will Smith alien movie is being sacrificial (generally speaking), but that is not the truest expression of love.  Maybe a bunch of little things all added together are the kind of sacrifice I mean.  There isn’t opportunity for each of us to die for another to demonstrate our love.  Romans 12:1 talks about being a living sacrifice, which is totally giving one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength to the purposes and good of another.  Or maybe sacrifice is the answer in some instances and not others. 

As I think about this, I remember love languages.  I don’t even know what they all are.  There is giving and touch, probably words, and maybe service.  I’m still missing one.  Anyway, this side of the argument points out that the motive is important, not the expression. 

My mom kept saying “it depends” when I asked her this question.  I wasn’t asking what was right or wrong, or the choice that should be made in a given circumstance.  Perhaps my point is to show how those things can conflict with expressing love.  Am I wrong?  After all, God is love. Ought love to be the ultimate consideration?  When faced with a choice between improving a relationship and improving the other person (making them good-er) in your relationship, which claim is superior? 

I could invite a friend to ice cream because I want to build our relationship, and spending time is a good way to brick our relationship.  Or it could be because I know they like ice cream and I want to brick them.  Or I could be bricking myself because I like ice cream.  So which is more important?  Which is love? 

There I go again.  I can’t blog without asking questions.  But to answer my original survey, if I were taking a test, I’d pick sacrifice.  I can refute the others (to my own satisfaction, but I can’t necessarily prove my case). 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »