Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

What is Love?

Dear Darling,

Do you find it unthinkable that anyone who writes letters of love to an unknown bride for a half-decade still question its definition? On its face, the question seems rudimentary.

But if we look beneath the face of love, the question is anything but. Our native tongue is woefully inadequate to define love; you cannot love cake with equal avidity as you love your job, or summer, or friends, or parties, or your mother, or your spouse, or your country.

To Scripture we must first turn, to find that God created love and God is love. When we love, we are like God, but only because love makes us like Him, not because we have approached Him or belong to Him. All lovers may for a time become better for having loved, more godly and virtuous in their behavior, more charitable and patient in their demeanor. The blessing of love is not confined to those who belong to God; He is generous enough to bestow its blessings even to the unrepentant. Because God is love, and loving makes us like Him, sometimes people mistake the two for each other. God is love; but love is not God.

1 Corinthians 13 famously expounds on its virtues by telling us that love is patient and kind, without envy, boasting or pride. It doesn’t dishonor others, nor is it self-seeking or easily angered, nor keeping records of wrongs. It rejoices in truth, not evil. It always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

All of these describe love, as we ought to aspire. But do they define it? The same may be shown to a sister as much as a wife. Nor can a list of mere descriptors fully define love, any more than the words “swift” or “beautiful” define a horse.

What does the world say?

The scientist says love is in our chemistry, neurons firing in the brain.

The teacher says love is in our actions.

The preacher says love is a commitment and service to others.

The mother says love is in the heart.

The philosopher says it is a force of nature, irresistible and untamed.

The hedonist says love is God, obeyed heedless of cost. The lover says it is a feeling; you have to go there to know there. The cynic says it is an illusion; the sensualist that it is sex.

This also is true, that some loves we choose and some loves choose us. After all Darling, you could not guarantee you would seek out and love every member of your blood kin had you not been born into their family. Families love each other, even when they don’t like each other. And some loves endure long after reason says they should.

The Greeks find greater variety of descriptors for love; in their tongue, there is ludus, the playful and unripe love among children. Then there is agape, the unconditional love and charity we show towards the world and its natives, a selfless Christian loving-kindness and altruism. There is philia, a deep affection, friendship and connection between comrades, which may be only friends or may be romantic partners. Of course there is eros, which may be the primal and passionate fire which presses towards any physical consummation, and the sense of being romantically in love with one in particular. There is storge, the natural love between family. Finally, there is pragma, the abiding devotion brought about through mutual understanding and longevity.

Why should such a question arise after so long? My Darling, I ask because I wonder how I’ll know that I love you. Such revelations take time, but may dawn suddenly or gradually. Some say there came a specific moment at which they suddenly decided, or realized that they loved. Others say it was a gradual process. Love (philia), I think, cannot come suddenly and spontaneously, not for me. I’ve inoculated myself against such uncontrolled sentiment. Reason has built walls and buffers to ward off such insensible emotionalism. (Though make no mistake, much of me still devoutly longs for surrender to such passions.)

It worries me, you see, because some say that love is putting someone else’s needs before your own (agape), and I think I would not be overly generous to myself if I say I tend toward this already. It’s hard not to be charitable of deeds when your life’s work is with the sick. Nor do I say this to congratulate myself; half the time I hate it. I hate feeling responsible for others, I hate feeling their pain and mistakes. I hate that people won’t listen. I hate that I am only human, much less others. I hate that “only human” is the excuse so many conjure in defense of their wanton misdeeds. I hate that I give so often and receive so little. I can’t deny this is just how I was created, one of God’s built-in cushions of the universe to balance out the selfish. I just have to make peace with it. That is, after all, one of life’s greatest blessings: to carry the burdens of others without breaking. To break, and only be kinder for it.

So Darling, how does a Christian discern between agape, eros and philia? How much play do we allow Venus and Cupid? What happens when you decide to spend time with someone, and resolve to model the behavior you hope is characteristic of yourself as a husband (why else would you date?) and you can’t tell between the deed and the feeling? It’s second-nature to me. More than getting doors or paying for meals, it’s an ongoing “how was your day” or “tell me your troubles.” It’s reading someone’s face to see what hidden meaning lurks behind polite formality. It’s being willing to get up at 5am if necessary to take you to the airport. It’s coming over and nursing you back to health if you’ve taken deathly ill. It’s sacrificing sleep to come help you change a tire. Within reason, it’s basically being available 24/7, and dearly hoping the same is offered in return.

Now don’t mistake me, Darling. I can be a selfish pain in the neck as well as anyone. That’s what will make our love last, a resolution to put behind us the parts which make us intolerable towards one another. But my inclination is towards serving as I describe above. You see how that already looks like love? Add to that a physical chemistry, which can present its own quandary by posing the question “do I like you for you, or do I just like having anyone to be with for a change?”

When do you choose to love someone, and when do you “fall” in love? How much is controlled and how much is loss of control? When do you possess love, and when does love possess you? To one who places high value on maintaining control of one’s senses and faculties, it takes a great deal of trust to be willing to let go. When do you love someone for what they do for you — for their mind? Do you need someone because you love them, or do you love someone because you need them?

You might say I’m an overthinker. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of such. But asking too many questions? Nonsense, my dear. The secrets of life are reserved for the one who never ceases to ask questions.

Here is what I know. Love is priceless. It cannot be bought.

Love is a flame that cools us, and an ice which thaws.

Love is the sixth sense that makes no sense.

Love is needing someone, as well as wanting them.

Love is more than a feeling, but it isn’t just all the bolstering spiritual intangibles. There’s head spinning, heart racing and blood pumping, and it’s here that I need the most work.

Love is a Verb. It isn’t what you think and feel and say. It’s what you do that defines you to another.

Love is a Command. God said to love one another, no options, no exclusions. That means even when you don’t feel like loving someone, you love them anyway. Love is a Commitment.

Love is a decision. It’s an act of will and sometimes runs counter to all our instincts.

Love never looks the way you wanted or expected. It will change us and shape us and transform us. In time, it will define us. Love is a force and a power, and like any power, it must be controlled. We must change and shape and transform it ourselves. We channel it.

Love is unconditional.

Love is a multiplicitous, jumbled, wonderful mess, one in which I can’t wait for us to become entangled.

I will meet you there. Someday. Somehow.

 

I remain ever yours sincerely,
Beren

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May 26, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Questions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

18 Romantic Snow Day Ideas

02. Wierusz-Kowalski, Alfred - Goraca sannaDear Darling,

It’s snowing again. I can look out the broad windows and see a fresh and generous cloud of snow coating the city that sleeps. I guessed it would be a cold and snowy winter for once, and so it has.

I love snow. It excites me, activates the little kid in me. It’s beautiful, and inspiring. There’s only one thing missing.

Most programs have canceled for tomorrow, but I doubt mine will. A snow cancellation once offered a day’s worth of winter fun, before all this reality set in. But together, my dear…together we will set a new tone for reality. And even now, daydreams of the luxuries such free days would open to us provide a warm and inviting diversion.

Think what it would mean to awaken and find all pending obligations are canceled. Laying in bed with nothing to disturb us. How might such days be spent? Cabin fever seems a remote possibility in the face of such contemplations, but let us see where a day’s events may take us.

1) Movies – An obvious choice. There’s nothing better than to bank a few films for just such opportunities as these.

2) Puzzles – They often seem a frustratingly idle use of time for me, needlessly spent on a fruitless task. But, if your amusement and deep conversation are to be achieved, I’m game.

3) Cooking – Whether a fancy dinner or just cooking up an entire week’s worth of food, I’m sure bonding is done as easily over an oven as over a television. Bonus, cooking over a wood fire.

4) Sledding – Why not be young at heart again and pretend our bodies can take the blows our young selves once withstood? Why not snow angels, snowball fights or the active search for a steep hill? Why not find a posse of neighboring children and split into team captains?

5) Pillows – These multipurpose stuffed consorts are suitable for building forts, or winning fights. Growing up is only something children want to do, and being grown-up is only something the immature fret about.

6) Charity – Why not buy gallons of hot chocolate and find some cold people on a street corner? I’m sure our four-wheel drive can accommodate the road hazards.

7) Ice skating – One or both of us may find the ice leaves more marks on us than we do the ice, but I know the very place I would take you now, if I could.

8) Photos – I often find singularly frustrating the uncaptured beauty I must neglect in the pursuit of my adult obligations. Like the freezing fog through which the moonlight shone, too beautiful to miss and too fleeting to capture. Like the snowfall outside my window now, the back roads and wildlife that calls them home. Sometimes the life we’re busy chasing is busy passing us by!

9) Lodge – Maybe it’s too many Cabela’s adverts for flannel-spun garments, but there’s something about a wooden lodge or lake house, somewhere comfortably between rustic and modern, that calls to me. The escape, the mountain air, the chance to escape the world for a little while. Maybe we’d even get snowed in.

10) Marriage bucket list – The places we want to go, and the things we want to do in our marriage…the milestones we want to achieve. Or maybe just comparing our own bucket lists and seeing which ones we could cross off together.

05. Fischer, Anton Otto - A Winter Scene, Lovers On Skis11) Poetry – Trading reading poetry aloud, in varying accents

12) Vacations – Ready to lay aside some unique tropical getaways? Is there an exotic location on your bucket list? Or just the vacation laid aside for the spring or summer? The song says later on we’ll conspire as we dream by the fire. Who are we to argue?

13) Skiing – Those of us who are in the 99th percentile in height may find such activities more hazardous than others whose height growth kept them lower to the ground. Yet, finding ski lodge that offers such experiences sounds okay by me, certainly something to try once! I can see us all bundled up, with runny noses, ruddy cheeks and hat hair, but dined and divined at day’s end, washed and exhausted and laughing together as we retire to the room.

14) Party – Planning a mid-winter’s gathering, a snow party or even a ball to drive the winter’s cold doldrums away.

15) Games – Cards don’t easily occupy me, nor do most games with only two at the helm. But perhaps a nice tournament of pool or table tennis would be in order…perhaps with some sly and mischievous penalties for losing.

16) Restaurants – Snow days become snow nights. Why not bundle up in our finest (and warmest) for a fine restaurant with dim lights and gentle music, walking back to our car under a glittering night of frosty stars and a snowy road home?

17) Dancing – A seven-course ensemble of slow-dancing to the serenades of Frank Sinatra, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald.

18) Fireside chats – Sharing secrets and warmth as the light flickers off our bodies and our shadows dance on the walls.

These, my dear, will surely be the days and nights of pure nights of bliss, to bask in the frivolity of our youth and our love, to build memories and love together. The days that were magical from youth can be reclaimed once again. The taboos which once forbade us tread further will be dispelled. And for once, I’ll be your companion as you slip slowly into your dreams.

As surely as the memory of fire can warm, so the thoughts of how the evenings may one day be spent lends the warmth of hope to this night…and blunts the edge of this beautiful aching.

Yours ever,
Beren

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Holidays, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When You Are Old

When You Are Old11. Baur, J.M. -  A Loving Couple
William Butler Yeats


When you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Fancies

Christmas Fancies
Ella Wheeler Wilcox


When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago,
And etched on vacant places
Are half forgotten faces
Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know —
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow.

Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near,
We see, with strange emotion that is not free from fear,
That continent Elysian
Long vanished from our vision,
Youth’s lovely lost Atlantis, so mourned for and so dear,
Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near.

When gloomy gray Decembers are roused to Christmas mirth,
The dullest life remembers there once was joy on earth,
And draws from youth’s recesses
Some memory it possesses,
And, gazing through the lens of time, exaggerates its worth,
When gloomy gray December is roused to Christmas mirth.

When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis
Each heart recalls some folly that lit the world with bliss.
Not all the seers and sages
With wisdom of the ages
Can give the mind such pleasure as memories of that kiss
When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis.

For life was made for loving, and love alone repays,
As passing years are proving, for all of Time’s sad ways.
There lies a sting in pleasure,
And fame gives shallow measure,
And wealth is but a phantom that mocks the restless days,
For life was made for loving, and only loving pays.

When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes,
And silences are melting to soft, melodious rhymes,
Let Love, the world’s beginning,
End fear and hate and sinning;
Let Love, the God Eternal, be worshiped in all climes
When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes.

December 24, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worth It?

Saddened Knight

“He believed in the things that he always thought he knew
And had done all the things that he always wanted to do
Collecting each thing, reflecting his worth
But now he pondered, how he had wandered this earth

For we all seem to give our lives away
Searching for things that we think we must own
Until on this evening when the year is leaving
We all try to find our way home.”

Dear Darling,

The storm’s blown over. I woke up this morning before alarm or sun, finding myself feeling hurt and distant, continuing this feeling of being on the outside looking in. Four and a half hours’ sleep will have to do. I roll over and begin telling these things to God, but even He feels distant.

I don’t have to be at the church for two hours, but I dress anyway and prepare breakfast while asking of the Lord what He would have me do. Am I truly in His will? To be sure, He has blessed me with unique and rare gifts and experiences this year, and taken care of all my needs. I am not rich, but if enough is as good as a feast, then I have feasted. But does that mean I am doing what He wants me to do?

The question that has been haunting me of late is, has any of this been worth it? Trying to be worthy…worthy of God’s favor by following His laws. Worthy of men’s favor by being a servant, a hard worker, someone who helps. Worthy of you.

I have not seen my family in a week; it’s the first time such hostility has gone down, the first time I actually thought I would be disallowed from spending Christmas with family. I serve them as best I can, and am treated worse than my elder brother. Mounds of ill overshadow mountains of good.

Is it possible to please God? “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Therefore, there are very specific things that I have tried to avoid in deference to remaining unstained from the world. I don’t drink. I don’t indulge the angry or frustrated impulses to swear, although God knows the words have entered my ears often enough to be found in my heart in times of anger. I don’t go to see movies which I feel dishonor Christ with such behavior, and I view dimly the celebrities who do so.

These are rifts between myself and my culture, and with this culture, they grow ever wider. Very often they occur between myself and my friends, or coworkers, or even would-be mates. I struggle not to think less of them for these behaviors…drinking to become drunk or even “tipsy” or leaving unbridled their tongue of fire. A good friend of mine explained that she would not have had the courage to dance unless she’d “had a few.” Friends gather to watch movies or shows that are crude and crass. “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving,” wrote Paul, and so I try to avoid indulging in such entertainment. The other night I made excuses to leave a gathering because their plan was to watch an R-rated movie…a gathering which revolved around “church.” I still wince inwardly at every single profane word (particularly that of my Savior’s name) even though I hear these words constantly. The minute someone casually swears, they have told me a lot about themselves and it saddens me. When someone shuffles around in tight-wrapped jeans, indecently short skirts, obscenely tight yoga pants or revealingly low-cut tops, they too broadcast a message which saddens me.

Whatever happened to Philippians 4:8 and thinking only on what is righteous? Whatever happened to walking as children of light? Whatever happened to putting away “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” or not even naming sexual immorality and impurity? Is life so miserable that we must chemically augment its reality with fermented grain and grape? Is God asleep that we should defy Him by conversation riddled with the ugly and bitter words of profanity? Is the darkness not sufficient for our ignoble deeds that we now parade them into the light and make them acceptable? “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

But why? What is the good of trying? Why worry about trying to please God? Where did we get the idea that our good behavior will be rewarded? The Bible talks of obedience “so that it may go well with you” but even the Psalmist worried and wondered about the righteous man suffering while the wicked prosper.

The challenge goes like this. I hold a standard, of finding a wife who is wholesome and dignified and pure. People ask me what I’m looking for, and then question that decision because it tweaks their own guilt. “We’ve all made mistakes,” they say. “If you’ve looked with lust, it’s the same as having sex,” others insist. (Looking with lust is a sin, but surely not equivalent to the deed itself?) “You have no room to judge if you’ve ever looked at pornography.” Can it really be true that the occasional loss of every man’s battle is tantamount to fornication itself? Do the moments of weakness which I would easily forgive or overlook in a mate nullify the hope or expectation for a partner who is not plundered of physical purity by choice and surrender? Are some sins not greater than others, or do we damn a child’s lie with equal enthusiasm as a murdering rapist? And if the sins and their penalties are commensurate, why wouldn’t someone struggling to please the Lord choose the sin with greater pleasure?

The Workers Wages and the Prodigal Son, of which I’ve written before, both point to the futility of sacrifice, of following God and disciplining one’s self to remain unstained by the world. Where is the incentive to act in a way which pleases the Lord if there is not greater merit to be found in obedience? I esteem more highly those who take God’s will seriously, and who have disciplined themselves sufficiently to follow His word. Likewise, I aspire to the same standard to please God and show Him to the world. But in doing so, I’m accused of thinking myself better than others, or of looking down on others. Not to say I am better than anyone else, but if there is not greater value to be found in such pursuits, why ever would we try to uphold a higher standard, or to find fellowship with others of like mind? Why not drink? Why not carouse? Why not flirt with disaster and dance on the fire’s edge?

Thus is the riddle. Obeying a standard earns no favor. Asserting such a standard means you are judging. Seeking it of others is too discriminating. A disappointed or diminished opinions from such behaviors make you critical and harsh.

Very well then, why have I tried so hard, consciously trying to prepare myself for a wife of virtue, faithfulness, kindness and compassion when none seem to be found who desires the same, and when others encourage me to lower these expectations out of practical reality in the world? Why place a higher premium on good behavior if everyone in the kingdom is redeemed, and preference beyond that is subjective and ungracious? Perhaps she has slept with a man or two before she got holy. That is no reason to reject her. I might just as well bring home a repentant murderer or a penitent stripper — after all, if they are forgiven, who am I to judge?

You cannot earn God’s favor but through Christ. But can His favor be earned beyond that? Are all really on the same platform, the repentant serial killer and the charitable benefactor? Does God really care whether we drove ten nails or ten thousand into the cross? If there is no favor except by the blood of Christ, why try to be “good” if you cannot maintain any higher degree of pride, favor or approval from God for “behaving”?

And what of your favor? As my third decade dwindles and I cannot find anyone to match your description, I find myself asking what was the good of trying to anticipate how to please you, when all I can find are those who insist I should lighten up and relax.

But fear not, Darling, if fear you ever did. Conscience and principle still forbid great departures from the path of wisdom. But increasingly, I fail to see the solution to this riddle between virtue and virtue’s reward. Increasingly, despite the words of Paul in Romans 5, blanket pardons and those who wave them increasingly appear as a license not to worry overmuch about one’s sins. Let those who read and follow hereafter gainsay if they can.

Love ever,
Beren

“For we all seem to give our lives away
Searching for things that we think we must own
But on this evening when the year is leaving
I think I would be alright if on this Christmas night
I could just find my way home.”

Trans Siberian Orchestra

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Purity, Questions, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sundry Thoughts for October, Part IV

Dear Darling,

How was your day? What did you eat, who did you talk to, where did you go? My day was the same as the rest of my life — an unfinished song. I wanted to write several things, and as they all wished to be written at once, none of them were. I have to be up for a video shoot tomorrow early, but I must write to you again before sleeping.

1) It snowed today. I can’t recall an October that gifted us with snow so early. It was just the right kind of weather for afternoon cuddling, dreary and plodding, cold and blustery. I had on my favorite, slightly-oversized fleece pullover, and I cleaned up the car and room, wrote a little, shopped for medical stock, went to the bank, gas station and store, and wrote a letter. It was a laid-back day, honestly.

2) I’m sorry I can’t come sooner. No one should be more convinced my desire is to find you as quick as may be, but I follow the orders of my King, and He has deemed it is not the due time. But I know inwardly you must be lonely and suffering to bear up under these days of solitude, with no one to share your secrets or sadness. Take some solace in the fact that I am poised at the starting gate, and it is only my Savior who stands waiting to give the signal. Join me in asking Him that the time will come, that He will release me to come and find you.

3) Where do you spend your spare time? At home? In a coffee shop somewhere? Out with friends? If I knew where you tended to hang out, even in general, doubtless I would pay call and loiter about those places. But where does a servant of Christ spend his time that would allow him to meet suitable maidens? Where might you pass your leisure that I could loiter about and seek after your face?

4) I ran an obstacle race recently. There was mud, ice, rock, sweat and electricity — eleven miles of it. It was one of the hardest things I’ve made myself endure, and it was so miserable it was fun. It would have been such fun to have you run with me, or at least be waiting for me at the end. Though, I promise you wouldn’t have wanted to kiss me!

5) “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.” ― Oscar Wilde

6) I started a business once. Did I tell you that? I was sued and it didn’t work out. I didn’t pay the corporation registry fee and they canceled it my LLC. But the website service lived on for a time, even when I left it alone. Some fellows now want to pay a handsome sum for its use. Meanwhile, a magazine next to me has an article I wrote. Another article is going to press, and each carries with it its own handsome check. I’m working on at least one, maybe two more. Funny how the Lord has always created these side opportunities to have one foot on a cloud and one foot in the mud.

7) What’s would fit best with your idea of a romantic night? Rose petals? A thousand tea lights? We should do a night using nothing but candlelight and firelight. I turned out all the lights in the house tonight and used just candles.

8) Listen to this song and remind yourself it’s all going to be okay…until I can be there to tell you so myself.

Goodnight my dear.
Beren

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Sundry Thoughts | , , , , | Leave a comment