Sunday, March 4, 2007

Somewhere Short of Suicide

My apartment building has a workout room, or something like it. It's more of a dank, noxiously lit basement wedged between the laundry room and the boiler room. I am thoroughly convinced that legions of cockroaches hold linedancing competitions in the very moment of my departure. To get there, you have to descend a dozen slick stairs underneath a window that looks into someone's shower. The portly gentleman who attends to his personal hygiene there either does not know or does not care about the show that he provides to the neighborhood.

But, it is gratis (I refer to the gym, not the shower show), and there's nothing like the looming spectre of college loans to make a person less discriminating.

Last week, to while away the time on the elliptical machine, I turned on the television to the classic movie station. The gym's cable access is the one thing that elevates it above dungeon status. It was one of those black-and-white, absurdly luxurious European romantic escapades that were so fashionable during the 1930s. (I can feel you glazing over, but please stay with me). Everyone has multiple lovers and endless disposable income. Entering halfway through, as I did, I never caught the name of the film, or even most of the principal characters. But it centered on an American business tycoon who has, for twenty years, been married to a beautiful younger woman. He is an honorable man, a kind and attentive husband. His wife, we soon find out, is a petulant trollop. He funds her on a trip to the Continent, and she falls in love with a philandering expariate. Our honorable American businessman catches wind of her affair and goes to Europe to rescue her before all is lost. He chases off her lover, forgives her, and spends the next three months wooing her all over again. By the time they got to Austria, she informs him thst she wants a divorce; she is determined to marry a Bavarian gallant with a Romantic moustache. Then, she makes her husband wait around for several months in Europe before the divorce can be finalized. In Italy, the betrayed husband is befriended by an American woman that falls in love with him, and we (the audience) are gratified that he has found a woman who recognizes his true worth. It seems like everyone will be happy, but then the wife is dumped by the Bavarian, and she calls asking to be rescued once again. The husband, being of the honorable strain, turns his back on his own best prospect for romance and gets on the boat with her to America. We see quickly that she has not changed in any particular. She was after a tow truck, not an engine overhaul. Just before the boat gets underway, he stands up, puts on his hat, and walks out.

His wife pleads after him, "But don't you love me?"

He offers the stinging reply, "Darling, you know I do. But love has to stop somewhere short of suicide."

But does it? (And now I come to the point.) Up until that moment, our honorable American businessman had been a striking modern Hosea, with a love that loves on faith, when all loveliness is wanting. With that line, he became a man honorable only by habit, a slave in the end to his own happiness.

But love, love worthy of the name agape, must go to the point of suicide again and again. It did go, at Calvary. It does go, in pursuing us. It will go always, to the ends of the earth, believing in the redemption of all things.

There is none of that wretched and weak-willed sentimentality in the statement: "God is love."


Anonymous said...

This is a good start- a very important relaization about love. Love, you will learn, is intricately complex and there a deeper level you will yet reach that is about drawing a boundary for another to respect (or not- choice is theirs). Drawing a boundary or limit out of the deepest of love within you is establishing virtue for yourself and protecting your being (you cannot love another until you know how to love yourself). The important thing to realize is you must love yourself as a human with boundaries as you cannot survive what God can. You do nobody any favors by letting them run all over you.

God does come to rescue us by letting us realize our need for Him and then allowing us to search for Him out of that- for He does not always give you what you want or what you think you need. He draws clear boundaries that we do not understand and most often rage against, but we respect Him for it in the end beacause it establishes clear, definable truth. Truth that says this is right, or this is wrong.

Anonymous said...

What a very moving and true comment. I just finished watching the movie and was amazed at how timeless it is. And reading the comment let's me see how much I still have to learn about love