At least, that’s what I’m told. I think I understand it–almost.
Loving someone guarantees pain someplace along the road. Sad goodbyes are said as a spouse goes off to war and each is left to weep in the darkness, alone. We hurt as the one we love goes through personal pain—the loss of a job, the death of a parent, the separation of lifelong friends as someone moves a thousand miles away.
For some reason though, that’s not the kind of pain most of us understand from the original statement. To most of the world, love hurts means we’re guaranteed the person we love will be the one who hurts us. Anger will separate us. Arguments will cause irreparable damage to the relationship. Fights will make us forget why we cared for each other in the first place.
Honestly, I’d rather neither view was correct, but I have observed both. Quite recently.
One day, not too long ago, I boarded a jet bound for Los Angeles from Houston. The flight would be completely full, we were told. The airline on which I flew doesn’t assign seats, just a boarding order. Each person sits in either a convenient seat or an obligatory one, depending on if they are lower or higher in the boarding order. I was in the former group and opted for a window seat, with another gentleman sitting on the aisle seat nearby. In the latter group, a man came down the aisle and sat in the middle seat of the row ahead of me. Still later, a woman got on—unaccompanied, one would assume. She sat in the middle seat beside me. Quite soon though, it became obvious that the man and woman were together. They fought the whole way from Houston to L.A. Three hours.
“Honey. Sweetheart. What did you do with that forty dollars?” the man started.
“None of your business! It’s my money, not yours,” came the sullen reply.
Back and forth it went, with most of the talking being done by the man. Each exchange was prefaced with, “Honey. Sweetheart,” and terminated with him turning to the front of the plane again, shaking his head. Eventually, the lady fell silent, unresponsive to the argumentative young man.
She did speak when the attendant came by to ask if we wished to have anything to drink.
“Give me a Jack Daniels and Diet Coke.”
The response was instant from the seat in front.
“Honey! Sweetheart! Please don’t drink. We have to get a rental car when we get off the plane.”
She responded, “I’m not staying. I’m going back as soon as we land.”
The young man didn’t simply shake his head this time, but actually head-butted the seat in front of him and was rewarded by a frightened yelp from the startled woman sitting in it.
It was evident he had plans in Los Angeles and couldn’t accomplish them without her money and sobriety, neither of which, it appeared, were likely to be within his reach upon disembarking the aircraft.
I won’t burden you with every bit of their hateful conversation. The woman had obviously spent a good part of the forty dollars in question in the bar at the Houston airport. The Jack Daniels and Diet Coke didn’t help to sober her up any during the flight. She stumbled out of the airplane and up the jet-way after we touched down, as he stalked ahead of her into the terminal.
Back in my hometown, while I was away, there was a memorial service for a lady who had passed away during the preceding week. Lynda was born in this little town. She married the love of her life forty-seven years ago. For thirty-five of those forty-seven years, she suffered with Multiple Sclerosis. The crippling disease had gradually taken away her ability to care for herself in any way. She couldn’t walk, couldn’t feed herself, couldn’t bathe herself. It didn’t matter.
Jim, the love of her life, was there.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after….well, you get the picture. Jim was there. And, I don’t just mean he was there to take care of her at home. They went everywhere together.
Concert at the Fine Arts Center? There were Jim and Lynda; she in her wheelchair; Jim beside her to make sure she didn’t need anything.
Wedding of a friend? They were there.
Basketball game at the local University? They were both there, cheering on the team.
Picnic in the park? Yep. Wheelchair and all, Lynda was there with Jim at her side.
She got so she couldn’t sit up in the wheelchair, so they got one which allowed her to recline and still go everywhere she went before. The little Volkswagon became difficult to get her in and out of, but they kept going places until finally, a friend let other friends know that they needed a specially equipped van. Lots of people chipped in to get that van for them. They put many miles on it and wore it out going places together.
When Lynda passed into the presence of her Savior last week, Jim was at her side and she was surrounded by her family. At home. Tears flowed and memories were shared.
I can’t help but compare the two situations. I do know that they seem so disparate, so unrelated. Perhaps, it’s specifically that extreme which makes me need to view them side by side.
On the one hand, I see two selfish, damaged people intent on inflicting more pain on their partner. Hmmm—maybe partner isn’t the right word to use there, since that implies two people working toward a common goal. I see no hope for the relationship, envisioning only a termination of their cohabitation with one thing in mind: to forget the other person as quickly as possible. Any memories left from that period will be unhappy ones, suitable only for putting out of mind.
But on the other hand, we see two people committed to each other, no matter what the personal cost. If it had been Jim stricken with disease, I don’t think the outcome would have been different. Their love was obvious to all. True partners, who were all in with each other, holding nothing back.
Was there pain? You bet. But, their love was greater than, their commitment superior to, the hurt.
Love does hurt. Life is not always pretty, nor always fair. Things get messy along the way.
I wish I could say that I’m like Jim, instead of like our friend on the airplane.
The ugly truth is that sometimes I want what I want. Selfishness makes me do things I’d rather not talk about here. That said, I constantly have in the back of my mind a quiet voice that reminds me of the words of our old friend, the Apostle Paul: “Husbands, love your wives. Give yourselves for them, just as Jesus did for the Church.”
I know of another good example now, a man who also remembered those words and lived them for over thirty-five years.
Pain, joy, hard work—all go into a loving relationship.
The result is a thing of beauty. I’m pretty sure it’s worth it.
Joy comes in the morning.
Love isn’t finding a perfect person. It’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly.”(Sam Keen~American philosopher and writer)
…if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”(I John 4:12)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.