The hazards of love

Faith in love

How can people make a lifelong commitment to a chemical reaction?

How can people make a lifelong commitment to a chemical reaction?

As regular readers know, I occasionally like to change things up here in the church review feature and either write a profile of a spiritual leader or an essay regarding a faith-related issue. This week, it was raining on Sunday, and I just didn’t feel like pedaling in the wet. But I was torn for an essay topic. Do I finally write the “faith in gardening” essay my staff has been dreading for years? Do I go back to the well of hope and go with the faith in the market? Well, it’s spring, and as Alfred Lord Tennyson said so long ago, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” That was probably right before he wrote: “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.”

But my heading once more into the breach has little to do with what I’m thinking. I’m actually thinking about the faith people put in love. I’m nothing if not an observer of people, and these days I’m watching the people around me, some near, some far away, falling in love, acting on love, living in love—desperately desperate to figure out ways to make love last. I hear talk of marriage. I see our special projects editor Kat Kerlin and her husband, Grant, moving into their first home. I can anticipate the natural sequence of events there, and I look forward to them. I see others so afraid of public perception of their emotional attachment that they’d hide their hearts under bushel baskets rather than admit they suffer from such vulgar pursuits as hopes for a forever partner.

I’ve never dated a woman I met in church, but I can tell you, women in the church are some of what occupies my mind when I’m not taking notes on the stained glass or trying to get a quote from a sermon just right—although it’s more about aesthetics than anything sexy. Think about it: Generally people go to church wearing nice clothes—if not their Sunday best. In fact, most people probably look the best they will all week at that hour at church.

Tangent: When you get right down to it, church is probably a good place to meet someone. I’ve never seen a couple argue in church. I’ve never seen a man or woman fly off into a jealous rage. I’ve never seen anyone get so drunk on sacrificial wine that they passed out in a pew or lit up a cigarette. I’ve seen some chaste kisses, but I can’t recall ever seeing a tongue. (OK, there are some weddings where I’m not sure I can say that.) I have seen a lot of hand-holding, and the result of all that hand-holding running around in the aisles.

But back to the questions at hand: What is it about love that makes people believe every game is for keeps? How can people make a personal declaration of, or a lifelong commitment to, a chemical reaction? I’ve seen those “till death do you part” vows snap like dry twigs more often than I’ve seen them flourish into mighty oaks that withstand all the storms and droughts that life presents.

Then there are those terms “faithless” or “unfaithful.” People use them to mean “adulterous,” but what they mean to me is that an individual or a couple has lost the faith—usually after one person or the other acts in a perfectly human way—that things can ever be OK again. Does the faith that gets lost rest in the chemical that is usually so transitory, or was the lost faith dependent upon something that came from way beyond the physical? Is lifelong love really only that people have the capacity to believe that every obstacle can be overcome or worn to a smooth surface?

Is that all there is? We see the very occasional towering specimen that elicits envy and the faith that if those people can do it, then so can we.