Honoring the Risky Venture We Call Love

So, today, 13 years ago, I married my late wife, Katharine Royal. It seems appropriate to honor that in some way, just to get in touch with the feelings and memories that brim beneath the surface. I think the best way for me is to quote the words of Deitrich Bonhoeffer. It expresses alot of how I feel love, relationships, and marriage work for me, as a choice for hope in the face of the world’s heartache and pain. Writing to his fiance from within the prison cell from which he was later dragged out to be killed (rather than getting to share his life with her forever), Bonhoeffer writes: “You cannot imagine what it means in my present situation to have you. I am certain of God’s special guidance here. The way in which we found each other and the time, so shortly before my imprisonment, are a clear sign of this… Everyday I am overcome anew at how undeservedly I received this happiness, and each day I am deeply moved at what a hard school God has led you through during this last year. And now it appears to be God’s will that I have to bring you sorrow and suffering … so that our love for each other may achieve the right foundation and the right endurance. When I think about the situation of the world, the complete darkness over our personal fate and my present imprisonment, then I believe that our union can only be a sign of God’s grace and kindness, which calls us to faith. We would be blind if we did not see it. Jeremiah says at the moment of his people’s greatest need ‘still one shall buy houses and acres in this land’ as a sign of trust in the future. This is where faith belongs. May God give it to us daily. And I do not mean the faith which flees the world, but the one that endures the world and which loves and remains true to the world in spite of all the suffering which it contains for us. Our marriage shall be a yes to God’s earth; it shall strengthen our courage to act and accomplish something in the earth. I fear that Christian who stands with only one leg upon earth also stand with only one leg in heaven” (A TESTAMENT TO FREEDOM, 488). What is poignant to me is that Bonhoeffer truly believed his life and his civilization might end. Yet he chose love, connection, openness to another in the face of this. The choice to be open to love, to relationship, to the risk it brings, was a choice of faith. I don’t have a complicated theology of marriage nor do i believe marriage itself is what is needed for a relationship to be holy, but the relationships of love that count — married and not — reflect such a risky faith in the goodness of God and in the ability for people to build together through covenanted relationships (be they church, marriage, partnership, committed friendship) healing, life-giving beauty against the weight of the world’s pain. Today is a complicated day for me to process in part because I am embracing love again, a truly good thing that has come unexpected. I find again Bonhoeffer’s words inspiring and challenging me even here. They remind me that it is not about a relationship being forever, but the life-changing, world-changing power of people risking, trusting, believing they and the world can be better through together choosing love in the face of the world’s pain, however short or long that life-giving relationship remains. That marriage I remember today ended suddenly, with heartache and pain I still cannot describe, but its goodness carries with me in everything I do and all that I am. As I embark in love again, often I face fear and heartache, uncertainty, for this world gives us no more promises than it gave Bonhoeffer. Any choice to love may end in relationships broken, heartache, as my marriage of 12 years did for me and Bonhoeffer’s engagement did for him and his beloved at his death. But the choice to embrace love in the face of fear, closeness in the face of pain and heartache, joy and laughter with others be they a romantic partner, family, or friend, is to choose faith in God’s earth as Bonhoeffer says. This is the lesson of those 13 years that is now, even when it is difficult to embrace, the guiding star of my days. It reminds me so much of the words of this song by Regina Spektor which has given me hope, strength, and encouragement this past year: 

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One thought on “Honoring the Risky Venture We Call Love

  1. Janet says:

    Beautifully put. To love is to risk. Thinking of you on this bittersweet day. What a radiant soul Kat had. She would, however, want you to have love in your life and so I know she would approve of your new relationship. Peace.

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