I agree. And I’ve seen it in him and in many other passionate celibates of both sexes. In this post I’m going to explore the corresponding truth – that couples cannot just rely on romance; there has to be gritty, lifelong commitment (such as, in fact, I have also seen modeled in my celibate friends).
Fortunately for me, this post will be easy to write because this week I read two excellent pieces on precisely that topic: lasting love. One from a C of E Archbishop and another from a retired C of E bishop. (Since I’m staying with my in-laws, good Anglicans both, whilst writing this, it seems an opportune moment to say that I think the Church of England has some impressive leaders.)
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is a master publicist with the common touch, a great communicator (and makes a good duo with his boss, the altogether erudite Rowan Williams). Two days ago, on Valentine’s Day, Sentamu wrote an article about what makes love last the test of time. Church Times? Theology Today? No – it was in The Sun. (Read it here.)
Sentamu made the point that when couple marry, contrary to popular belief, they don’t say “I do”, they say “I will”. It’s not just a declaration of “how I feel today”, it’s a declaration of “what I will commit myself to tomorrow”.
Great point, well made. True love, in the end, must be willed, not just felt; must be for the long haul, not just for now.
Then, last night, I was reading a book by Tom Wright, until recently Bishop of Durham (and in my view one of the greatest Christian writers and teachers of our time). As it happened, the passage I was reading was on the same topic, that of lasting love.
…the excitement of romance is like the excitement of striking a match. It’s sudden, sparky, dramatic – and it doesn’t last long. The question is, What are you going to do with the match once you’ve struck it?
The answer…is that you will use the match to light a candle. A candle isn’t as exciting as a match, at least not to being with; but it can be far more beautiful, far more evocative, and far more long lasting. Human couples need to learn that lesson, to prevent them supposing that, when the match has gone out, something has gone dramatically wrong and they must look for another match to strike as soon as possible. To learn this, indeed, is part of the road to the virtue of chastity.
(from Virtue Reborn)
Love is the aim, the goal, the end. Love is the word that sums up not only mature humanity, but also God himself. But it takes work, effort, grit.
It may even take gasping out prayers and sweating blood in a garden, like it did for Jesus.
Thank you, God, for passionate celibates. And for steely-eyed, determined, married couples. May we all have not just a happy Valentine’s Day, but a happy forever after – in love.