The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Thrills

Image from N.Y. Times

20 years from now you will not recognize the love that you had on the day you were married. Those words came from our pre-marital counselor 26 years ago. He planted a vision in our hearts that day. We have never forgotten those words.

If you have never read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis then you must get a copy as soon as possible and read.  Since it is Valentine's Day then turn to the chapter on Christian marriage.  Lewis explains what our counselor was trying to communicate to us.

Lewis writes: People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on 'being in love' forever.  As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change--not realizing that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last. The sort of thrill a boy has at the first idea of flying will not go on when he has joined the R.A.F. and is really learning to fly. The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does this mean that it would be better not to learn to fly and not to live in the beautiful place? By no means. In both cases, if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction.  The man who has learned to fly and becomes a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening...It is simply no good trying to keep the thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go--let it die away--go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow--and you will find that you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life. It is because so few people understand this that you find many middle-aged men and women maundering about their lost youth, at the very age when new horizons ought to be appearing and new doors opening all around them. It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy.

Are you seeking the same sort of ignitable thrill with your spouse every day that you had in the early days? The early thrill lit the match of commitment but it was not the glue that would hold the marriage together. Those who seek a thrill a day in marriage will grow numb to any thrill at all. They will constantly be on the lookout for some new thrill and will likely fall off of the cliff. Thrill seeking will lead to emptiness, coldness and boredom. The door will be opened for all sorts of out-of bounds experiments. This is why so many in Hollywood discard their marriages as one throws out a paper-cup.  The initial thrill is gone and they go looking for a new thrill.

Real love is not like that. When you put an end to thrill seeking you will find the quieter interest and happiness that follow. You will find that you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.

College was thrilling for me. After I graduated I travelled back to campus often. I remembered the thrills and tried to recapture them. I had missed the purpose of college. College, though thrilling, was not designed to be the end-all thrill.  Its purpose was to strike the match that would ignite a lifetime of purposeful work. How odd and twisted it would be if I now, as a 51-year-old man, were to travel back to my dorm room each week in hopes of recapturing the thrill of college.

Would it not be equally foolish if Lori and I sought to continually go back to the days of our early romance? How mindless and fruitless it would be for us to try to recapture the thrills of our engagement and wedding day. Those are good memories and memories that should be soul stirring but we have moved on. We are now flying the plane, planting the garden and we have the thrill of getting to know one another. We have a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. My wife is much more beautiful to me today than was the young girl that I married. The wedding day was thrilling but it was just the beginning. Marriage is not the end of all thrills but it brings more than a thrill a day. It brings a life of knowing and discovery.

25 plus years later we barely recognize the love that we had on August 15th, 1987. We would not trade our lives together now for the thrills of our early days. The memories are still sweet to the taste but they have given way to a deeper and richer life together.