This is a line in a yoga DVD I’ve been doing for the past five years or so. It has always struck me as a curious phrase. And in the wee hours of the morning today, I was reminded of one of my teachers. He was neighbor at our church, and over the years, he has related with us in various ways. At one point, he worked as the church janitor. He has also struggled openly with drug addiction, which has caused community and family conflict and several church members have walked with him, striving to be a mediating presence in difficult situations.
His wife ended up leaving, and about a year later, she showed up for worship one Sunday morning carrying a new-born baby and a new partner at her side. As the service began, her ex walked in and sat beside her. The congregation didn’t visibly react, but I was definitely filled with worry. During prayer and sharing, she stood up to say that she and her boyfriend were moving out of the neighborhood, hoping to get a fresh start in a new place. She thanked the congregation for always looking out for her. As soon as she sat down, her ex stood up. The rest of us held our breath.
He gave praise to the fact that he had been clean for three months, and had enrolled in a recovery program. He turned to her and said, “I will always love you, but I know why you left. And I know that your new partner and your new family can make you happier than I ever could. I wish you all the best.” The pastor tearfully thanked both of them for coming, and prayed for each one.
But my own tears were accompanied by the challenging aching thought, “If my love would leave me and start a new family with someone else, would I have the courage to let him go like this?”
Chris and I have been reflecting lately on our relationship and how to nurture it in the midst of our busyness. In some ways, our “till death do us part” commitment leads us toward laziness. The unconscious thinking is, we know that we will stay together no matter what, and as a result, the other person will have to put up with us even when we let them down, because this love will always be there. We use it as if it were a limitless savings account that we can draw from. We think things like, “but our children grow up so fast, this workshop has to be planned, who will translate this document if I don’t?” The long-term commitment we have made has somehow justified putting it last in our priorities when so many short-term commitments call our attention outward.
I am inspired by this brother’s act of courage. It was fueled, I’m sure, by the same God-filled energy that stared down demons as a part of his recovery process. I am grateful for his teaching me about non-complacent love, which is not guaranteed, and remains faithful even when its only job is to let go.
This is the non-complacent faithful love I want to strive for every day, in all my relationships, but mostly with my husband, who creates with me the nucleus of family that makes everything else possible.