a poem by
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Love is not all; it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
To trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
Miss Millay has given us a powerfully poignant and succinctly eloquent personal statement to love. She tells us love is not all. But what then is love? To find our answer let us further examine what love is not, and then perhaps by contradistinction we will discover just what is love.
Love, romantic love, indeed is not all. We’ve all heard it said before, “but we love each other and that’s all that matters. We’ll find a way…” This is sometimes said without conviction, for they sense that it is not enough. It is often said in desperation, just as the drowning man pulls at his rescuer and, in so doing, takes them both to their demise. The psychology being that if I’m sinking, it is somehow better to have someone with me. It is clearly the avoidance of the responsibility for one’s own life and decisions.
Romantic love indeed will not give you answers. It certainly will not help you avoid the responsibility and necessity of doing one’s own thinking. Contrary to popular belief, each of us is an island unto our own minds. Cognition is not a communal activity, but an individual one. Evaluation of data and the decision-making processes cannot be done collectively. Even an agreement made with another is a process that only each, individually, can make.
Many desperately grasp at love as a means of freeing themselves from the quagmire of self-doubt. The thought of being alone strikes sheer terror in their hearts. Love, in and of itself, will not alleviate this terror. Yet our being alone, when understood and accepted, and with the proper mate, can be one of the most delightful experiences two humans can share. How exhilarating the challenge of sharing the intimacies of one’s own inner experiences with another!
Men are particularly guilty of the fear of being alone. They tend to center their whole lives around their mate and, in so doing, sever most ties with family, past buddies and friends. Women, on the other hand, generally continue their friendships beyond matrimony, often sharing intimacies most men find unthinkable to share with each other. Consequently, a man’s nurturing is vastly limited, while women find their nurturing from their many friends.
Thus, when a marriage ends, the woman can go on with her life, for she has someone with which to share her feelings. Men, because of their self-imposed, self-limiting beliefs and consequent “experiences” outside their home, are devastated. They have no one with whom to turn, and so they turn to alcohol, the first harlot that comes along, or suicide…
We’ve explored what love is not, and so now let us turn to see exactly what is love…
Conceptually, romantic love is the recognition and admiration for the values and beliefs you possess reflected in the person of another. It is as if you were looking in a mirror. When the values of each person complement the other, the consummate of romantic love exists.
Love for another can be so totally exhilarating that it becomes difficult to imagine life without the other. This is why some partners have endured the unendurable, confronting death head on, rather than allow harm to come to the object of their love. Many have died for the safety of the other.
To forsake one’s life partner, one’s soul mate, to place the other in a precarious and dangerous position then, not only becomes unthinkable, but a contradiction in terms. This person is you, the image of you; to allow harm to the other is to allow harm to you.
Your mate grows to such importance as to become as one with you. God’s Holy Word, the Bible, has this to say about it: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31
Romantic love, however, is only possible to those who recognize that it will never be feasible to any who seek replacements for their own personal deficiencies through the life and strengths of the other. Romantic love is a vehicle toward fulfillment, but never its driver.
This then is romantic love. And now let us explore the teachings of the Bible and see what God has to say on the subject. He should certainly know, considering He is the Author and Creator of that Holy Book and all of humanity!
One thing discernible within the pages of the Bible is that romantic love is never mentioned, nor even implied. I suspect that’s because God, having created man, is acutely aware that man’s understandings of love are the by-product of the inherent imperfections and nature of man.
In other words, when the person’s viewpoints, expectations and perceptions of the partner begin changing, as they invariably do, it is then that the downhill slide begins, culminating in the dramatic and often painful crumbling of the relationship. The romance dwindles and fades, and divorce is usually the end result of such relationships. The causation and root of this dilemma is in the very fabric of us all. It is called Sin.
I’ve attached scripture that speaks of a love that is impossible to live without the enabling of the Holy Spirit:
1 Corinthians 2:14 ”But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Matthew 5:43-44 ”Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
Matthew 5:46 ”For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?”
Mark 12:30-31 “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Luke 6:27 “But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,”
Luke 6:32 ”For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.”
Luke 6:35 “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
John 5:42 “But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.”
John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15:17 “These things I command you, that ye love one another.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 or the “Love Chapter” as it is often called. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” This word, Charity, is from the old Greek word, Agape, or Godly love.
The love of which the Bible speaks is Agape love and is that of self-denial and self-sacrifice. Romantic love, sexual love, is not of the Bible. The passages cited above are but a hint of this Agape love, yet should lend an understanding of what God commands. These are not suggestions, but are commandments, and are only possible to those who possess the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
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