Extinguish my eyes, I’ll go on seeing you.
Seal my ears, I’ll go on hearing you.
And without feet I can make my way to you,
without a mouth I can swear your name.
Mmmm…that’s good stuff. Read it again, this time slowly and with feeling. Pop quiz: Who said it? Are you picturing a guy with brooding eyes and hair that stands on end a little too perfectly messy? A tad pale and cold? Give up?
The guy who penned those romantic lines was a poet named Rainer Marie Rilke. Wait…Marie? Here’s what Rilke looked like in his prime (early-1900s Germany).
Maybe the ladies in 1902 thought he was the stuff, but despite that stylish full head of hair and manly facial scruff, he looks a little hollow-eyed and tragic to me. A bit on the rangy side. Want to know the truth about the man who wrote some of the most beautiful, most romantic lines ever put on paper? He lived a largely solitary life of painful but enlightened introspection. His two great loves were but brief affairs. After one year of marriage, he left his wife and infant daughter behind to pursue notoriety as a poet. The silver-tongued lover we see in so much of his verse was Rilke on paper. Rilke in reality—meh. Not husband material.
The romantic in me, though, always looked for the perfect guy who could write like Rilke, and stir my soul like a dark, brooding poet. I wanted, like Julia Roberts’ character in Notting Hill, to stand before Hugh Grant and say, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” He’d kiss me and then look deeply into my soul and say something perfectly gorgeous about my beauty.
When I was a teenager, my head was filled with the classic love stories. I’d turn up the love songs in the car and shush my mom if she talked over them. I’ll never forget when she turned down the radio one time and waved her hand through the air to erase the saccharine sentimentality coursing through the car. “Don’t believe everything you hear in a song, Laura,” she said. “Love like that burns out fast. It’s the real stuff living in the middle that has staying power.” What a Debbie-Downer she was. Now I know she just wanted me to see that love was less The Police “Every Breath You Take” and more Joe Cocker “Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong.” Or, in your language, less Bruno Mars “Grenade” and more Brad Paisley “Then.”
The desire to be loved desperately and singularly is a very real part of our make-up. It’s why love stories have been told since the world began and why in His all-knowing, all-understanding wisdom, God included the Song of Solomon in our Bible. The trick is to balance the God-given need for love with the reality of life on this earth and the consuming desire to spend eternity with our Maker. In the right relationship, your husband and you will work together for that eternal goal.
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18)
See, the impetus for the creation of opposite sexes was that man should not be alone. The original seed of the idea in our God’s thinking was companionship, help and aid. That alone is beautiful. That alone is enough. Together we make one—us against the world. Firmly grasp what this relationship means before you develop an addiction to falling in (and out of) love.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I fell deeply and swiftly in love on an elevator at Texas A&M University, married the man and after seventeen years, still grin every time he walks in a room. I’ll tell you all about it one day. But even early on this relationship, I recognized that Alan was made of good fabric. He wouldn’t fall apart or leave when things got hard. He would do the right thing and step up. Every time. And that was it…what my mom had been trying to teach me as a teenager. The real stuff, the good stuff, is the daily way we meet life together. We are steady. We are trusting. We are confident. Sometimes I long for the highs of those early heady days to capture my heart again, but I realize with those amazing highs comes the potential for bottomed-out lows. The yin-yang of love. I’ve been known to say to Alan, “Would you just die if I ran away? Would you tear the roads up looking for me?” His usual wry response is, “I’d probably just track your cell phone, babe.” Oh well…I do still get the romance from him but it’s tempered with deep and abiding trust.
I know the love passage of I Corinthians 13:4-8 finds its way into your life constantly. You’ll hear it so often that you’ll quit hearing it at all. Try to step back a few paces and read those words again like they’re fresh and new and like they’re the instructions you desperately need to make romantic love work. Because, frankly, they are. There will be times in your life when those words will be the only lifeline being offered. The hand of God that reaches for yours. There will be moments when the plans you had for beautiful romance will meet day-to-day drudgery and you will pull these words out of your pocket and soak in their comfort and meaning.
Paul didn’t write that love makes you feel tingly all over or that love makes it hard to breathe when you’re not together. He also didn’t say that love is intense or desperate or obsessive. Believe me, love has its moments of intensity and desperation, and those moments are pure honey to the body and soul, but to maintain that 24/7 means that something is off-kilter in the relationship. That’s a red flag.
I pray that you enjoy the feelings of being swept away by romance but understand the real need to keep your feet on solid ground. Because the decision of who to be in a love relationship with is second only to the decision to follow Christ. It shapes your life, a young man’s life, and generations that follow if you marry. It’s never just about you although love has a way of making us forget that. When you’ve found the right love, it will be larger, greater, truer, and more emotional than any rush or crush you’ve known before.