Love Affairs

Love Affairs February 1, 2006

I was thinking about falling in love today. Specifically, I was thinking about how we human beings pine for it, idealize it, live for it.

And falling in love seems to come along so infrequently. What would you guess—the number of times an average person falls in love over a lifetime, that is—two, three (if you count your high school boyfriend)?

It might sound like a strange thing to be thinking about on a Wednesday afternoon, but not really. See, I was preparing this afternoon for a premarital counseling session. I always enjoy spending time with these young couples all dewy-eyed and optimistic about their life together. “Enjoy this,” I want to tell them. “Savor it and really open your eyes and live through it paying attention. You don’t fall in love too often.”

Don’t get me wrong. Even though I did actually see The Notebook and, okay, yes, I cried at the end (that’s a brave public admission which I would never voluntarily make except for the fact that some of you were with me and witnessed it), I really don’t think you could pay me to go all the way back to when I was sitting in the pastor’s office in premarital counseling. Anybody who’s lived a few years into falling in love knows that a relationship takes on different elements than just the heart fluttering (although that’s pretty nice when it resurfaces, isn’t it?), it deepens and grows as the time passes. While one might occasionally feel nostalgic about 6-hour telephone conversations about who-knows-what, I kind of like the comfort that comes with commitment.

And, as long as we’re being honest here, even when we do fall in love, who really lives the scenes in chest-heaving romance novels anyway? (If you do please don’t tell me.) Isn’t this scene from Adriana Trigiani’s funny book Big Stone Gap more like real life?

Theodore continues chopping. What beautiful hands he has! His large hands and squarish fingers are in total control of the paring knife.

The motion reminds me of a French movie I saw in Charlottesville once. When I go on buying trips, I make it my business to see foreign movies. We don’t get them down here, so they’re a treat. French movies always have love scenes in the kitchen. Somebody is eating something drippy, like a ripe persimmon, and the next thing you know it’s a close-up of lips and hands and off go the lights and their clothes, and pretty soon nobody’s talking.

I check my ceramic fruit bowl on the counter. One black banana. Please don’t let this be an omen.

Nope, I’m just not sure the heart-fluttering miracle of falling in love happens all that often over a lifetime, and when it does it’s probably not all that much like a French movie.

But then I got to thinking . . .

Last night I spent some time curled up on the couch with one of my kids reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. We usually take turns reading since the read-aloud of one whole chapter goes a little faster when you have 30+ years of reading experience under your belt. But Sam (who has approximately 2 years of reading experience under his belt) was reading for his turn when he stopped in the middle of the sentence and abruptly jumped up off the couch.

“Mom,” he said, “I need to mark this page!” When I asked why he said with great animation, “You are never going to believe this! In my class we are working on listing interesting words that end in –ed and I have never heard this word before. Moistened! What a cool word! My class is going to love it—I love it!”

Mark (the one sitting next to me in premarital counseling in the pastor’s office about 15 years ago) was sitting on the other side of the room while all of this was going on. When we caught each other’s eye each of us stifled laughter and disbelief as Sam ran off to get a piece of paper so he could carefully copy down the word and tuck it in his backpack to take to school the next day.

And as I remembered that scene it made me think that perhaps falling in love happens more often than I’d thought.

Yes, it could be that our lives are peppered with little love affairs all over the place . . . love affairs with nature, with ideas, with dreams and music and people . . . even love affairs with words . . . even love affairs with this God who created us to stop occasionally, look around at our lives in utter amazement and feel our hearts flutter just a little bit.

So, today I am pretty happy about young couples in love and The Mouse and the Motorcycle and looks across the room in shared laughter . . . yes, all of the things that remind us we’re falling in love a lot more than I’d originally thought . . . all those things are gifts of this God who created us to love and be loved–probably so much more often than we’d ever expected.

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