I haven't done a post for Musings of a Single Lady in a while because I was told by a couple of very trusted people in my life that some of my posts under this heading were more bitter and angry than the funny and sarcastic posts I was going for. I have since deleted some of my post under M.S.L. and have only kept up the ones that I don't think were written in anger (but if you disagree please let me know!). Anyways, this post is a little more serious than I would usually write for M.S.L. but it is a recent discovery which I really feel moved to share and explore with those of you who read my blog. I am in no way an expert at relationships, love, and am not married but would love to hear what you all have to say. So please comment with any thoughts or ideas on the subject.
"No, I will not let you go on alone; you are not fit to be alone. You need some one to watch over you, and care for you, and love you, and, if need be, to suffer with you."
"WOW!" was my first thought at reading this sentence: it stopped me dead in my tracks. The statement above is from one of my favorite books by J.M. Barrie called The Little Minister. This statement is made by Gavin, the town's minister, to his love, Babbie, the gypsy. For those of you that have never read the book, you should know that Babbie is a bit foolish because she doesn't really know any better. She has no clue what real love is because she's never had any examples in her life, but from her base understanding of it, I can tell you that she never would have thought to hear the words "suffer with you" in the same sentence as "love you". The odd thing though is that I hadn't fully thought about it either.
I know that Christ, who is the perfecter of our love, suffers along with us when we suffer, and that during a marriage ceremony phrases like "in sickness and in health, till death do us part" are exchanged; but what does suffering with one’s spouse even mean or look like? I believe that what Gavin is alluding to above is definitely referring to physically suffering with one another, but the author takes it a step farther.
Babbie is an extremely fallen creature. Now Gavin is in no way perfect, but the author purposefully sets up this juxtaposition with Gavin as a saint-like figure and Babbie as the wild heathen to emphasize the change that takes place in Babbie's heart. It is even sweeter that the change in Babbie’s heart comes through Gavin and his unconditional love for her and through it Babbie is finally able to understand what real love actually looks like. She is explaining this to another character (I'm trying not to give too much away because everyone should read this book!) and their exchange is chilling yet so beautiful.
(Babbie) "No; [Gavin] knows that it was so evil in God's sight that I shall suffer for it always."
(The Earl) “But he has done no wrong, so there is no punishment for him?"
(Babbie): "It is true he has done no wrong, but his punishment will be worse, probably, than mine."
(The Earl) “That,” said the earl, scoffing, "Is not just."
(Babbie) “It is just. He has accepted responsibility for my sins by marrying me."
Again, WOW! Do we really accept responsibility for our spouse’s sins? At first I was hesitant to agree, but remembering that those who marry become one flesh, I soon began to feel the gravity of the situation in a new way. Some people today think that marriage is all about finding their true love and having the perfect wedding. Those two desires are not bad but they are far from the whole picture. I have always been one to take marriage very seriously and I thought that I understood the hard work and effort that goes into a marriage; but the idea of my future husband "suffering with me" and "accepting responsibility for my sins" absolutely shocks, terrifies, and excites me all at once. It shocks me because I had never thought of my future husband having to suffer because of my past mistakes. I figured that if they are my mistakes, then I will be the one to deal with the consequences. However, I soon realized that is naive and that when you are married your consequences are shared and can sometimes be worse for one than other, depending on the situation. This idea terrifies me because if I truly love my future husband, is it okay for me to allow him into a situation where he would have to suffer? Shouldn't I instead want him to be as far away as possible from a situation like that? Finally, it excites me because one day I will have someone by my side, for the rest of my life, who wants and has chosen to suffer with me because of how much he loves me. And even better I will want to do the same for him. I am not meaning to discount God from that picture; I am fully aware that He already does this daily and has done far more for me than any man ever can. I am also not saying that a man could ever sacrifice as much as Christ has sacrificed for us. But it is amazing to think that another human being, someone who is not perfect and self-sacrificing like Christ, would willingly put themselves in such a situation. I believe that is true love and thank God we get glimpses of it; even from the pages of an out of print book.