A while back I found a NY Times article about a young Christian couple, Casey Moss and Kara Price, who married after committing to each other in a betrothal. In a betrothal ceremony, the two irrevocably committed by vow to marry each other in the future. They made this commitment apart from being in love with each other, believing their coming marriage was in accordance with God’s will and that they would grow to love each other. Please understand that in this post I don’t mean to consider the wisdom of betrothal or Casey and Kara’s application of it. Throughout the majority of history, marriages were made through betrothal, without the presence of romantic affection. Such marriages are perfectly acceptable in God’s eyes as long as they are participated in with righteousness and faithfulness. Wisdom must speak to the appropriateness of betrothal in a given situation. What I desire to focus on in this post is a statement of Casey Moss recorded in the article. Speaking of their betrothed relationship, Casey said, “I can begin to emotionally connect because it’s safe. [Kara isn’t] going to leave in six months and break my heart.”
His statement caught my attention when I first read it because it explicitly reflected a sentiment that I’ve seen subtly expressed in Christian writings on romance and matrimony. The sentiment is that a person should only become emotionally involved with a person if there’s confidence that the emotional investment is secure. Some Christian authors discuss how many romantic relationships, especially in dating, follow a pattern of two people developing strong feelings for each other, spending a period of time in a romantic relationship until one of them becomes discontent, and going through a breakup that leaves at least one of them heartbroken. Many Christian authors warn against this risk in romance, advising Christian young people to be conservative in their emotional vulnerability and romantic engagement with another person, often teaching that Courtship is the most secure and emotionally-preserving way to pursue marriage. These authors have a reasonable point, to be sure. The pain of a romantic loss is real. Many people have experienced it, and many more will. Sometimes, the loss causes emotional wounds that don’t heal quickly. With certainty, every person should use wisdom and caution in becoming emotionally involved with someone. But Casey Moss’ statement jumps to an even higher level of consideration when it comes to emotional security.
“I can begin to emotionally connect because it’s safe.”
The statement expresses a desire to be emotionally vulnerable only in a secure place and implies resistance to being vulnerable in a place that isn’t secure. I completely understand the feeling. None of us want to bare our hearts only to receive a big dose of pain. When a person commits to always love and be faithful to you, it’s reasonable to feel encouraged that you can be emotionally vulnerable without risk. The problem is, you can’t be emotionally vulnerable without risk.
Wisdom and commitment can allow you to be vulnerable with less risk, maybe even low risk, but they can’t ever give absolute insurance against loss or pain. The reality of loving a mortal person means you can’t be guaranteed he or she won’t ever disappoint, hurt, or even abandon you. Not even marriage, with all the strength of its vow and commitment, can insure you’ll always be cherished; no, not even for us well-meaning Christians. Certainly, marriage provides a greater confidence of relational and emotional security, especially when you make a wise marital commitment to someone of good character. Yet for all this, there’s no absolute guarantee of perpetual emotional security. Loving someone is like writing a blank check, you can’t know how much it may eventually cost you. This is the hazard of love. It’s the reality that, try as we might to develop wise, sheltering relationships, we have no guarantee from God or the future that we won’t one day endure pain as a result. C.S. Lewis famously expressed this hazard of love when he wrote,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Now Casey Moss may fully understand and agree with all this; I certainly hope so. After all, what he was really describing was that his and Kara’s commitment to each other allowed them to have confidence that neither would walk out on the other after tiring of a short-lived dating relationship. So why do I say all this? I say all this because we Christians must avoid a very significant error. With so many Christian teachers who instruct their listener to be careful only to pursue emotionally “safe” or “secure” romances, we must understand that no human relationship in this world can ever be absolutely “safe.” Now we also have to understand that some relationships are much more emotionally safe than others. Some relationships are about as risky as a short drive to the grocery store. Others are about as safe as vacationing in a warzone. But if we make the mistake of thinking we can find a relationship that’s completely emotionally secure then we’ll spend our lives looking for something that doesn’t exist.
Is there any way to find a completely emotionally secure love with another human? No. Love is good, but it isn’t safe. There are only two questions left for us to answer. The first is, “Is this particular relationship a wise risk?” No one should get credit for being foolish in the name of love. The second question is, “Am I willing to take this risk for the sake of love?” Love is something that makes us vulnerable, but it’s also the most worthwhile thing in all of life. And for us Christians, we have the encouraging hope that, even if our love for others leaves us disappointed or in pain, we are held in the security of the love of God, which cannot fail us. That doesn’t mean we won’t face pain or disappointment in this life. But it does mean we don’t have to be destroyed by it. Each person must decide for himself or herself whether to accept the risk of love in hope of its reward. As for me, I’ll wager the hazard of love.
In what ways have you risked the hazard of love? Do you think it’s worth it? Share your story and thoughts with us in the comments!
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