A Love Story Charge
by Heather Lehman
This article first appeared in the May/June 2016 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
SOMETIME BETWEEN WATCHING from a third floor balcony as he played in an open fire- hydrant with a crowd of children and saying goodbye a summer later, I realized I could love this guy. Sometime between the phone call from Indiana and the stroll through Central Park a year later, I knew I loved him. And sometime between that moment when our strolling stopped as he reached for my hand and when I walked down the aisle toward him, I knew that our love was deeper than I’d ever dreamed love could be.
We met in New York City – he the college student spending his summer as a mission intern and I the single girl living in a studio apartment and doing office work for the organization running his internship. Two years later, we met at the front of the church and promised to be faithful to each other for as long as we both shall live.
As our love story developed, so did the stories of others: my sister, his sister, two cousins, and many friends. My sister and her husband barely knew each other when they started dating, but mutual friends couldn’t contain their excitement. A friend met her husband in Bolivia and now they are serving there together. After being thrown together on a VBS teacher assignment, other friends grew to love each other and married a few months ago. Just yesterday I saw their Facebook post – they’re now the happy owners of their own town house in a small city they love. Happily ever after seems to have arrived, and happily we new brides tell our stories.
But what we don’t tell are the mistakes we made along the way. We don’t tell about the times we plunged into relationships for the wrong reasons, or the times we grew impatient and tried to force romance to bloom. We tell our stories eagerly, but at times recklessly. We forget the power of these stories, the desires they can stir.
THE WISE SAY “WAIT”
In their love poem, Solomon’s bride repeated a charge, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7, ESV). It seems out of place in this intensely romantic poetry. When was the last time I heard this charge in the middle of a love story retelling?
Instead our culture and our hearts tell us to pursue love. We believe that romantic love is our right, something we can wield all our power and persuasion to secure. It’s hard to understand Solomon’s instruction. There’s no doubt that Solomon and his bride were wildly in love and had a pretty great love story too, but they didn’t dare recount their story or sing about the delights of love without inserting this charge three times. During this romantic season of their relationship, their words ring with authority. They knew the intoxicating effects of love. They knew its power and joy. And they say, “Wait.”
The wisdom of this charge is clearer to me now. I listened to love stories and saw romance. I wanted a slice of that, so I acted in line with my desires – I looked for ways to stir up love in my life. I wanted to speed up the process, and flatly, it didn’t work.
THE STORY TELLER’S CHARGE
“It takes time. Wait.” How many times did our parents tell us this while we were growing up? We wanted little brother to be old enough to play the day we learned of his conception. We wanted ripe strawberries where we saw flowers in the morning. We wanted the chick to break free the moment we heard tapping inside the shell.
It takes time. Wait. We know this now. If we let the soup simmer, the flavor develops. If we study long enough, understanding dawns. If we extend consistent warmth, friendship buds. If we exercise, in three months our imperceptible progress is visible. We’ve learned to obey the instructions on the tea box to “wait patiently for perfection.”
Wait. It takes time. We remind each other of this on many fronts. Faith. Trust. Knowledge. Beauty. These come slowly, gradually, into our lives. We cannot rush the processes that God has built. We learned as three-year-olds not to tear petals open. There’s no beauty when we do that. Rushing the processes God has designed – although it is our natural inclination – only damages. Love is no exception, so why do we neglect to remind our friends of this as we tell our stories?
I’m a newly-wed, and I’m happy to tell people how my husband and I met, how our love awakened, and how we committed our love to each other. There are few stories I like to tell more. I leave out the messy details, though. I skip the mistakes and hurts; I paint only the pretty picture. Not everyone needs to hear the accounts of times I rushed ahead, wasted hours dreaming, or let my heart lead my head. But there are some who should hear; some can learn from my mistakes. And all can hear the challenge of Solomon. In the midst of the love story, can I stop and offer the charge wisdom makes? Married sisters, will you offer it with me?
Love takes time. Wait patiently for perfection.