Monday, February 15, 2010

Wedding Rant: Love Sometimes Fails

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

How many weddings have you been to and heard or read this passage? Most of them? All of them? It's an incredibly popular bit of scripture at weddings. And I am sick and tired of it!

Sometimes love isn't patient, kind, or slow to anger. Sometimes love is boastful and jesting, doesn't believe everything, and comes across as horribly rude. But it's still love. The passage from Corinthians seeks to define love, yet it merely describes some hopeful aspects of love. Love, by definition, is an indescribable emotion. It is a choice to some extent, a happenstance that two people enjoy each other at the same time. Love becomes inflated, looks out for itself, and, indeed, fails every once in a while. I can love someone to death: that doesn't mean they'll love me back.

Furthermore, the qualities St. Paul describes in his letter to the Corinthians don't require love to be true. I can be patient with someone and never love them. I can be kind, humble, reserved, thoughtful, and encouraging without ever so much as seeing a person in the flesh. These emotions and gestures are exclusive of love. Love can sometimes include kindness, and often does, but kindness is not a requirement of love. The same goes for all of the other items St. Paul lists.

When two people get married, I don't think they really understand love. I know my idea of love has changed so much since my wedding day four months ago. The Man and I love each other so much more now than ever, but we've also battled, warred even. We're learning what 'making love' means, to make a decision every day to love, to foster love, to harbor and store up love, to give away love. The things St. Paul lists aren't the things that have helped us as much as forgiveness, trust, wisdom, and faith in each other and God. (We both have stubborn streaks, so patience for us is simply waiting until the other person gives in. Not exactly the admirable 'patience' we need.)

Perhaps the scripture could be better written as:
Love is not always patient, but the virtue helps. Love isn't always kind, but kindness can lead to love in time. Jealousy, a haughty spirit, and rudeness are parts of loving someone so much that you will lose sight of kindness and selflessness, but being blunt isn't always a bad thing. Love sometimes rejoices in defeating the other person, though that may end in someone sleeping on the couch. Love bears most things, believes in some things, and endures rarely. Love, whether we like it or not, sometimes fails.

But love--and loving-- means always hoping for the best.

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